Kalman Baker

Kalman Baker will be graduating in spring 2023 with a Bachelor’s degree in Pre-Veterinary Science. After graduation, he will be attending the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine with the hopes of specializing in exotic and wildlife medicine. Growing up in Norton, Massachusetts, Kalman knew he wanted to work with animals by the time he could walk. His interest took off when he was sent to zoo camp for a summer in elementary school. This led to a volunteer experience with the Zoo Crew program at Capron Park Zoo when he was 12. Zoo Crew was a teenage docent program at the zoo where docents helped out with camps, interpreted at exhibits, managed the care of Education Department animals, and assisted keepers with daily work. During his fourth year, he was promoted to Head of Education and was put in charge of the husbandry of the Mammal and Herp Rooms of the Education Department. Caring for a variety of species including doves, rabbits, boa constrictors, cane toads, tarantulas, and many more he developed a passion for working with exotic species. This experience led to his first interactions with a veterinarian. Kalman credits his time at Capron Park Zoo alongside his love for animals as reasons for why he chose to pursue veterinary medicine. He continued to volunteer at Capron Park Zoo until leaving for UMass in Fall 2019.  

During his college application process, Kalman toured UMass and was blown away after visiting the Hadley Farm and hearing stories from current students. His main goal in undergrad was to explore different aspects of veterinary medicine since he already knew that he loved working with exotics. Until that point, he had never been inside a vet clinic or worked on a farm. His freshman year, he took Animal Science 101, broadening his knowledge of farm and domestic species. After developing an interest while learning about the UMass Boer Goat Herd, Kalman decided to enroll in the Boer Goat Management course the following spring. He spent the majority of his time at Hadley Farm until the pandemic forced him to return home. Before that, he was able to witness multiple kiddings as well as the fostering of a kid onto another doe. These experiences and the great hands-on training he received in the class led him to become a teaching assistant for Goat Management the following year. 

When Kalman was allowed back onto campus in the Fall of 2020 he took the opportunity to enroll in the Sheep Management course, continuing to develop his skills at the UMass Hadley Farm. Focused on broadening his experiences further, Kalman made it a goal to explore research and find a job in the veterinary field. In Spring 2021, he secured a position as a research assistant, studying hormones and cognition on animal models. His primary job was to run cognitive experiments using a CANTAB machine and conduct odor tests. This data was vital for a longitudinal study focused on examining the neural correlates of sex differences in age-related cognitive decline. Kalman’s biggest takeaway from working in a lab for three semesters was understanding the importance of animal models in medical research. 

In May of 2021, Kalman began his first job in the veterinary field, working full time as a Veterinary Assistant at Banfield Pet Hospital in Westwood, Massachusetts. He quickly began to love the atmosphere of a dog and cat general practice and gained invaluable experience performing venipuncture, taking medical histories, animal restraint, running lab tests, assisting in surgical procedures, and performing microscopy. Upon returning to UMass, Kalman joined the team at Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic in Belchertown as a Veterinary Technician. As a mixed-animal practice, this clinic gave Kalman the opportunity to continue his work with dogs and cats while also learning about equine, ruminant, and emergency medicine. Under the tutelage of Dr. Jesse Sugrue, Dr. Chelsey Mullen, Dr. Steve Purdy, and the amazing Mill Valley team, Kalman has continued to grow his clinical knowledge as well as develop new skills including IV catheter placement, radiographs, and client interactions. Additionally, he has worked with Dr. Purdy’s herd of alpacas and donkeys. Kalman continues to work at Mill Valley and plans to continue until graduation.

While working in both the clinic and research lab, Kalman continued to dedicate time to his role with the Boer Goat Management class. After starting as an apprentice TA, he mainly assisted in lab activities, herd health days, and kiddings. In Spring 2022, Kalman was elected to the position of Student Herd Advisor which he manages under the supervision of Faculty Herd Advisor, Meg Gennings. His role is to oversee the daily operations of the class including curriculum, schedule, herd breeding & management, and logistics. Kalman acts as a liaison between the Hadley Farm Livestock Barn Manager, Alice Newth, herd veterinarian Dr. Katie Beltaire, and the other teaching assistants. Through the opportunities in this class, Kalman has developed a passion for teaching and enjoys showing other undergraduates how to care for Boer Goats. In spring 2023, the Boer Goat class performed its first artificial insemination (AI) since 2018 and welcomed two AI-conceived kids. Kalman continued his education in reproduction technology by participating in the AI certification course. During his senior year, Kalman worked at the Hadley Farm as livestock barn staff. Working at the UMass Hadley Farm has given him a greater understanding of how to manage a goat herd, being actively involved in their daily management. Participating in Goat Management has been his most rewarding endeavor during undergrad and he hopes to continue working with goats in the future.

Kalman has been named to the Dean’s List every semester with an overall GPA of 3.9. He also received both the Nilsson Scholarship and the Byron E. Colby Scholarship from the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department. Recently, he competed on the UMass Team at the NESA competition held at the University of Maine placing third overall with Team UMass C. Kalman has been accepted to five veterinary schools and has chosen to matriculate at the University of Florida, citing their robust exotic animal medicine program as the primary factor. While his main focus will continue to be exotics, he still hopes to work with all species as a veterinarian. Kalman would like to thank his family, doctors, professors, and staff who have supported him along his journey to vet school and for his memorable experiences while at UMass.