Double vision: Twins Ann and Lydia Carpenter share first-year veterinary classes

Twins Ann and Lydia Carpenter, first-year veterinary medicine students, knew from age 4 that they wanted to work with animals. Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, they credit their parents for instilling a sense of love and appreciation for animals at such a young age.

Ann and Lydia Carpenter are not the only members of the Class of 2019 with a sibling at the veterinary college, but their experiences are unique because they take first-year classes together.

“My mom was always so insistent that they received the best care, that we respected them, and [that] they were ours to take care of. We never really lost that,” said Lydia. “We would care for everything,” Ann added.

With veterinary school in their sights, the twins first wanted an intimate, inclusive undergraduate experience which they found at Middlebury College in central Vermont, a small liberal arts school with about 2,450 undergraduate students, where the two also swam competitively for all four years. Because they attended school together, they could bring Otis, the horse they had shared since their freshman year of high school, with them.

“I think some people get the impression that we went to school together because we can’t get enough of each other or that we can’t function independently,” said Lydia. “In all honesty, we went to undergrad together because Middlebury was the perfect school for us, and also because we share a horse and neither of us was willing to go to a different school and not be around the horse.”

Otis, who Ann and Lydia affectionately refer to as their “therapy animal,” also came with them to Blacksburg and now lives less than a mile from their shared apartment. The horse is also featured as one of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center’s success stories after a near-death experience while the twins were still in high school. The girls, who were leasing the horse at the time, were given full ownership of Otis after paying his medical bills. They also have two dogs, including a rescue found running alongside U.S. 460 named Clifford.

Before joining the veterinary college, Lydia (left) and Ann (right) Carpenter attended the same undergraduate institution in central Vermont. They also own a horse and two dogs together.

Because of their shared dream of attending veterinary school, the application process was notably stressful. Lydia remembered, “During the application process, I would have recurrent nightmares that one of us would get in and one of us wouldn’t because there would be an immense sense of guilt for whoever got in and ended up going, and a panic for the person who didn’t.”

Ann continued, “When we both got in, it was such a relief,” not just for Lydia and Ann, but for their parents as well, who didn’t want the decision to define the twin’s personal successes and failures.

Of course, the twins admit that their undergraduate GPA and GRE scores were nearly identical, although, Ann admitted, “I had a little more research experience, but [Lydia] had more small animal, private practice experience.”

Now at the veterinary college, the twins are adjusting to life as first-year students. However, they haven’t found the experience nearly as stressful as others warned it would be, partly because they have each other. “It’s really nice to have someone to go home with. You can study together and grump about classes if you need to. It’s just nice to have someone to talk about it with,” said Ann.

Although the Class of 2019 includes two other siblings of current veterinary students, Ann and Lydia are unique in that they have their first-year classes together. They even sit next to each other in one lecture class where their professor didn’t realize that there were two of them until a few weeks into the semester. “It was understandable,” said Lydia, “but it was definitely entertaining.”

Their favorite part of first year so far has been working with their socialization dogs. “It’s nice to be able to work with the animals,” they said.

From left to right: Twins Ann and Lydia Carpenter join the Class of 2019 at the white coat ceremony in August.

Both Ann and Lydia are considering the college’s public and corporate veterinary medicine track, but they want to wait until further into the program before making any career decisions. Ann indicated that she is interested in pursuing government or epidemiology work in the future, while Lydia said she’s “straddling the line between small animal and public corporate.” She continues, “I will probably work in a small animal private practice for a few years after graduation and see how I like it before either deciding to stay in small animal or switch over to public/corporate.”

Though their career paths may ultimately lead them in different directions, Ann said, “I don’t want to send the impression that we can’t function independently.”

Lydia added that she’s thought a lot about what exactly attracted them both to veterinary medicine: “I don’t know if it was our childhood that shaped that we wanted to be veterinarians, or that we wanted to be veterinarians that shaped what we did as children.”

Whatever the reason, the twins still feel the immense relief they first felt upon receiving their acceptance letters. “There was this horrible moment where we were like, I got in, did you?” said Lydia. And no matter what career they eventually choose, Ann and Lydia know that they can rely on each other for support throughout the process.