Leticia Gonzalez, D.V.M., ’13
Dr. Leticia Gonzalez was ready for the demands of vet school. She had experience working as a veterinary technician, and worked in veterinary clinics throughout her undergraduate education. When she got into CSU, she was ready, and not even being diagnosed with a brain tumor slowed her down. She is now a practicing veterinarian in Southern California.
From vet tech to vet school
“Veterinary medicine has been my dream since I was a little girl. As a child, I grew up with a lot of animals in our household including chickens, turkeys, geese, rabbits, cats and dogs. I enjoyed going to the veterinary hospital for our pet’s annual exams. I remember clearly when our veterinarian invited us back to the treatment room to watch a small surgical procedure and it was in that moment that I was inspired.
“Prior to veterinary school, I spent many years as a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician. These positions gave me the skills and the confidence to know that the veterinary profession was the right one for me. I worked at a referral oncology clinic, a general practice clinic, and an emergency center all while attending college to complete my prerequisites.
“I think those busy months helped me learn how to balance demands, a trait that I have often drawn upon since. When I found out I got the chance to be a member of Colorado State University veterinary school, it was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Overcoming health challenges
“Once I arrived in Fort Collins, I quickly grew to love the program and the town. I also quickly became busy with classes, clinics, and wet labs. But during that time, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although I was urged by many to take a leave of absence, I pushed on with my studies, going to treatments concurrently. It was a hectic time, exacerbated because I continued to go to class, work two jobs, and lead two veterinary clubs.
“One person who helped keep me afloat during this time was Dr. Sherry Stewart, my veterinary histology professor, and a woman I admired for many reasons. She really became a second mother to me, mentoring me through the tougher days and weeks of the program. Through the support of Dr. Stewart and many others, I believe that I proved my strength and tenacity during this time. I eventually beat the disease and graduated with the rest of my class.”
Interaction with animals and humans is rewarding
“Now, as a small animal clinician at Southern California Veterinary Hospital, my day-to-day practice is busy and satisfying. I enjoy many aspects of my job especially interacting with clients and my team. I am fortunate to have phenomenal mentors and skilled technicians. My favorite cases are those where I can provide client education whether it be through visuals, supporting literature and discussing the benefits of each diagnostic along with potential differentials. I especially enjoy using the ultrasound as an imaging modality for my work-ups.
“In addition to my work at Southern California Veterinary Hospital, I run my own business focused on pet hospice and home euthanasia. I believe this is such a key piece of our profession. With pets treated as family members, their end-of-life care is more important and needs to be tailored to individual circumstance. I help owners make decisions that reflect their values and their wishes for their pet. Having a trusted ally in an otherwise scary process makes all the difference.
“I still have much of my career ahead and am looking forward to the journey. One of my major goals is to own my own practice. The practice owner can have such a major impact on the climate of the hospital. With mental health and wellbeing becoming an increasing priority for the veterinary profession, I hope I have the chance to create a culture of support and positivity. Eventually, I hope to be a motivational speaker for veterinary audiences, telling my story of hard work, optimism, and persistence to others.
Advice to students: Focus on effort
“As a recent graduate, I often give advice to veterinary students in a variety of circumstances. I am on the Los Angeles Pierce College Advisory Committee which helps pre-veterinary students to transfer to graduate schools of veterinary medicine and assist with course development.
“The one thing I often tell them is work hard and focus on the effort not the results. I hope to leave a legacy in this field.
“My departing words: decide to take initiative and persevere. Challenge the unknown and be courageous. There will be turbulence and it will not necessarily be easy but in the end, it will be rewarding — from the girl who dared to dream.”