More Than A Spouse: Turning a Dream into a Doctorate

Heather Poynter

To pursue an intensive doctorate program while starting your military spouse journey requires a special sort of superpower. Air Force spouse of 16 years Heather Poynter believes all military spouses can overcome anything and make their dreams happen.

What does it take besides military spouse superpowers? Your service member’s support and personal grit to take on the dream!

Set Goals to Reach the Dream

As Heather recalls, it has always been her dream to become a doctor.

“I was doing my undergrad in biology to become a human doctor. I realized that my passion did not lie in human medicine, so I switched schools and degrees to pursue animal medicine. I had always loved animals, and the challenge of diagnosing different species fascinated me.”

With her heart set on a degree program, Heather knew the next step was to figure out how to balance the demands of military life, especially PCS moves that often occur every 2-3 years.

“I had a long conversation with my spouse about what my daily life would look like if I entered an intense academic program,” she shared. “We came to an agreement that I should pursue this, and I went full force!”

Deployments and PCS moves came and went while she stayed in school, and by 2015, Heather graduated with her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. She admits it got tough but overcame the challenges through hard work and determination.

“Military spouses are tough, and we can overcome anything because we have the drive and the will to make things happen…it’s one of our many superpowers!”

The Dream in Action

To no one’s surprise, as soon as Heather was licensed for professional practice, she pursued positions with her community in mind.

“I have always worked as a civilian veterinarian on military installations. I never had the desire to work in a full civilian clinic, and I wanted to give back to my community and help the military.”

Heather has served as a veterinarian at military installations both in the US and OCONUS and has beloved stories that make her appreciate the work that comes with this profession, especially for military families and four-legged heroes.

“Whether it is basic puppy care, annual vaccines, tough surgeries, helping a family PCS or helping them through a tough decision,” she said, “my most fun stories come from working with the military working dogs! Those dogs are so special and amazing.”

NMFA Supports Military Spouse Dreams

Heather’s success story is one that continues to drive our Association to advocate for military spouses. We know PCS moves and financial obstacles can burden military families, especially spouses who put their dreams on pause to support their service members. To bridge the gap between higher education and employment, we not only advocate on Capitol Hill, but we also award scholarship funds through our Joanne Holbrook Patton military spouse scholarship program.

With no hard deadline to apply, our scholarship program functions on a rolling application process and remains flexible for military spouses. Whether military spouses are pursuing a degree or entrepreneurial goals, our scholarship program exists to support them.

Like Heather, we know military spouses are capable of so much when given support. As she puts it, “military spouses can have a career.” And we could not agree more!

Share your ‘More Than A Spouse’ story with us. We want to hear it! You could be our next spouse feature to share wisdom, personal triumph, and all that makes you More Than A Spouse!

By: Angela Sablan Tenorio, Content Manager