Carla Sommardahl came to UT for an internship to specialize in large animal medicine in the summer of 1989, shortly after earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Louisiana State University. She never left.
After her internship, she completed a three-year residency in internal medicine at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.
Though she had planned to go into private practice, Sommardahl fell in love with the academic atmosphere and realized she wanted to teach.
She completed her PhD in comparative experimental medicine at UT and is now a clinical associate professor and section head of large animal medicine at the veterinary college.
Why this field?
Sommardahl knew she wanted to be a veterinarian since she was in fifth grade. Her love for animals grew stronger as she participated in competitive horse riding during junior high and high school.
She never dreamed, however, that she would be a teacher.
“I love to see the excitement in my students’ eyes when they first learn to do a standard procedure,” she said. “I enjoy sharing the knowledge I have gained through the years and training these students to be the best veterinarians that they can be.”
When Sommardahl isn’t working with animals at the college, she and her husband take care of the animals on their farm. They have a small herd of Angus cows, two goats, and a llama.
She describes her family as an outdoorsy bunch. They spend their summers wakeboarding and water-skiing on Norris Lake and their winter breaks skiing in the mountains of Montana and Colorado.
A broadened world view
Sommardahl’s stepfather was in the Army, and her family lived in seven states in the South before she graduated from high school. She lived in Germany for two and a half years and spent much of that time traveling to nearly every country in Europe.
The travel bug stuck with Sommardahl as she grew older and started her own family. She has traveled to 30 states. She and her husband took their children out west one summer on a two-week RV trip from Arizona up to Yellowstone National Park.
Still on the bucket list
Throughout Sommardahl’s travels, her favorite places to visit have been national parks. She has been to 10 and hopes to visit every national park in the United States.
Sommardahl also hopes to take up horseback riding again someday. “I’m around horses all day long but I’m not riding them, and there is a huge difference.”
If she didn’t do this . . .
“I would still be working with animals, but also working with the human-animal bond in mental health therapy and counseling with humans.”
Favorite spot on campus
The UT Gardens. “There are nice, calming spots to walk, eat lunch, and get away for a while.”