"Just be careful on the road. One text message is not worth your life or somebody else's,” said Mary Beth Davis

By Caitlin Keating
May 13, 2019 02:12 PM
paralyzed woman graduates
Credit: KFOR

Nine years ago, a University of Oklahoma student was driving home to Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the weekend to visit her parents when her entire life turned upside down.

“Distracted driving, took my eyes off the road, overcorrected, went down a steep hill and flipped my truck twice,” Mary Beth Davis told KFOR.

And while the accident broke her neck and left her paralyzed, she managed to return to school the next semester and graduate in the spring of 2011.

Davis didn’t stop there. She went back to school, according to the news outlet, and this past weekend became one of the few people who use a wheelchair to graduate from Oklahoma State University as a doctor of veterinary medicine.

“It’s definitely not an easy profession,” said Davis. “I kind of have to train and adapt myself to be ambidextrous and use my left hand for surgical procedures and stuff like that.”

Davis told the Stillwater News Press that Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences has been extremely accommodating with her disability.

“A lot of work went into making sure there were push buttons on all the doors,” she said. “Different tables were installed for me so that I could get under them and closer to a patient. A specific surgery table gave me the accessibility and ease to perform the way that I needed to. It was definitely something I was worried about coming into vet school. It made my life around the hospital and over at McElroy Hall a lot easier.”

Dr. Jerry Ritchey, a professor and head of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, told the newspaper that when he first met her, she was “the student in the wheelchair.”

But since then, he has “learned from her about her struggles and successes, the ingenuity required to accomplish simple daily tasks that I always took for granted.”

He added: “She was always open, honest and sincere. Her journey speaks for itself. She provided me confidence to approach and interact openly with any wheelchair-bound person. In the end, I guess I no longer see a ‘student in the wheelchair,’ I just see a young lady who is about to be called Doctor.”

There have been times throughout her journey that Davis didn’t think she would come so far, especially right after her accident.

“Those were some of the darkest times that I had,” she told KFOR. “All I was worried about was, can I go back to school? Can I still drive? Am I going to be able to have kids?”

Davis, who is getting married in November and already has a couple job offers, now wants to encourage other people using wheelchairs to become veterinarians.

“If I could expand on that and reach out to more people and there be more of a group to connect with and have people relate with each other, that would be helpful,” she added.

She also wants people to see that she’s an example of why you should never text and drive.

“Just be careful on the road,” she said. “One text message is not worth your life or somebody else’s.”