Journey to Becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Gabriela sat down with MDF Instrument's Crafting Wellness Podcast to discuss life on the road to her DVM. From getting her bachelor's degree, to applying for Veterinary School, to taking a gap year, all in the pursuit of becoming a Veterinarian. Her resilience and empathy in her quest is inspiring. Gabriela reminds us all to follow our dreams, wherever they may lead.


Gabriela [00:00:00]  Since I was a little girl, I was introduced to animals and I love them. But the thing that really got me into this field was the overpopulation of dogs and cats that we have here. I think seeing that as a kid really impacted me, and I will always try to find ways to help animals by donating to shelters or volunteering. But then I discovered that I actually loved the medicine and how through medicine, I can educate owners and I can educate my community in the importance of being a responsible owner and how animals impact us directly. I've been working alongside a lot of animal welfare organizations, and it just really blew my mind how important this field is and I actually want to specialize in shelter medicine due to that.

Brooke [00:01:08] Hi, everyone. Welcome to our Crafting Wellness podcast. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Gabriela after everyone who doesn't know you because you just introduce yourself a little bit and tell us where you're from, where you live and kind of what you do in the medical field.

Gabriela [00:01:24] My name is Gabriela Medina. I am from Puerto Rico, so I've been living here my whole life. I am currently a pre-vet student for a year studying biomedical sciences at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. So I'm not actually studying like an animal related type of career, but this can get me to that school. So that's why I call myself a pre-vet.

Brooke [00:01:52] Oh, OK. Can you explain that a little bit more for for me, who does not understand what that means?

Gabriela [00:01:58] Sure. A lot of people think that pre-vet students only study animal science or pre veterinary or other animal related fields in the undergrad bachelors degree. But I feel like that is not true because for you to go to vet school, you need a bachelor's degree or you don't need a specific bachelor's degree. So I feel like anyone that it can be a person that's studying music or theater. But as long as you have the prerequisites and that experience and animal experience and you're interested in entering vet school, I will call them a pre-vet student.

Brooke [00:02:42] OK, that makes sense. And so after you get your bachelor's degree, then then you're going to go to veterinarian school, would that be the next step for that?

Gabriela [00:02:52] Yeah, I am going to be applying in May and then I will take a gap year because you have to apply a year earlier and then, yes, I would go to veterinary school.

Brooke [00:03:05] But if so, what are you majoring in? What are you getting your bachelor's of science in.

Gabriela [00:03:09] In biomedical sciences.

Brooke [00:03:11] Biomedical sciences, yeah, OK. Can you explain for everyone watching when exactly that entails biomedical sciences?

Gabriela [00:03:18] Usually people study it to get to med school. So it's basically human related. You take pharmacology, you take human anatomy, you take immunology and everything that's related to human medicine. So I chose this bachelor's degree because I feel like humans and animals, even though people don't think they're related in terms of of medicine, they they are the basic knowledge you can apply to animals. So I wanted to choose a bachelor's degree that was related to medicine because I do love medicine. So this is why I chose it. And usually people that want to go to med school choose this bachelor's degree.

Brooke [00:04:08] OK, and so are you your are you in your senior year now? Are you in your final year?

Gabriela [00:04:15] Yes, I'm in my final year.

Brooke [00:04:17] And we've been checking you out and I know that, you know, I think it's really important that we represent everyone in all fields because nursing is primarily been a focus of MDF for a long time because that's primarily our customer base. But nurses aren't the only ones who use stethoscope. They aren't the only ones who use medical equipment. Can you tell us a little bit about how you found your passion for animals and how you found your kind of way to study this and want to get into it? Is there something that sparked in you, or did you always just love animals growing up? Or how did you kind of fall into this?

Gabriela [00:05:00] Well, I love this question. It's because since I was a little girl, I was introduced to animals and I love them. But the thing that really got me into this field was the overpopulation of dogs and cats that we have here. I think seeing that as a kid really impacted me, and I will always try to find ways to help animals by donating to shelters or volunteering. But then I discovered that I actually loved the medicine and how through medicine, I can educate owners and I can educate my community in the importance of being a responsible owner and how animals impact those directly. So I think it's it's great because I got to that point due to the fact that I've been working alongside a lot of animal welfare organizations, and it just really blew my mind how important this field is and I actually want to specialize in shelter medicine due to that.

Brooke [00:06:17] Wow. Yeah. We were watching who has never been to Puerto Rico. I've had the pleasure of visiting twice. I love it. It's such a beautiful place. But they do have a lot of animals running around.

Gabriela [00:06:29] Yeah.

Brooke [00:06:30] So here you see a stray dog in the street, you're like, Oh no, let me call the owner is it missing? There you have to get used to the fact that there are dogs just running around. Definitely. Some of them are actually owned by people, but they still just to get around because when I first got there, I wanted to save them all. I'm like, Oh my gosh, is this dog? Let's take this dog to the vet. And then you just realize there's so many of them. But the people they feed them and the community comes tpgether and they're all taken care of quite well, but they are like on the street animals. I remember when I was there, I found a cat that was really hungry, and I named him Azul because he had blue eyes. It's really pretty like,
you know, my big blue eyes, and I fed him like a whole piece of chicken and he was like little skinny cat. But I know they sucker us in all the time for food. But yeah, important because I do know. I don't know if this is a prevalent thing in Puerto Rico, but I do know that sometimes I've noticed people like get very frustrated because the the cat situation and the cats, because they'll overpopulate. But it's I think it's really important that, you know, we treat animals with respect and love and they teach us a lot of things. And I could never understand hurting an animal or not wanting to help an animal because they're just innocent little creatures that need our love and care. So I think it's I love what you do, and I think it's incredible. So thank you so much. Going to study that and maybe one day I will have to check out my dog.

Gabriela [00:08:18] Yes, please. Yeah. And I think what you said, it's it's so true, and I think we should start by educating here in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, some people have this mentality that stray dogs are like super durable. If I'm saying correctly, like they don't get diseases, like they're fine, like they last long, so they don't take them to the vet. Mm hmm. And that, yeah, and that leads to a lot of problems and the cat thing. That's another problem because cats. Their reproductive cycle is very short, so you usually see more cats, and in studies you can see that there's more stray cats. And that's why I think one of the techniques that a lot of animal welfare organizations use that is called TNR Trap neuter release, it's so important and it's so efficient because you trap a cat. A stray cat and you sterilize it or castrate it, and then you release it. And yes, that cat can survive and you can feed it and all that, but it's not making more babies and all that stuff. So I think we should start here in. In the schools, I think there should be a program where they teach kids the importance of animal welfare and taking care of our animals, even when they're in the streets, and how that impacts our environment and ourselves because it's not diseases and all that.

Brooke [00:10:13] Absolutely. You know, I think it's easy for people to see animals on the street. And if they're walking around and they look fine and they look healthy, just fine, they're just on the street doing their thing. And so if no, no, no, they can have worms, they can have fleas, they can have ticks, they can have all kinds of problems that you can't see. And we don't want people trying to deal with the overpopulation of the cats on their own. I saw some cats that we're dead and it's like, what happened to them? It's a thing that we have to talk about because. That's not the way to handle it, I think getting cats neutered so that they can't overpopulate, it's a great way and just advocate for the animals and know that they are important to our ecosystem. They're important to our lives. So it's a totally different mentality for animals. It's a cultural thing in Puerto Rico with just, yeah, because they're everywhere and they're just like, Oh, they're fine, they're just doing their thing. And here, you know, you see that. Wait, wait, hold on. And so it was really weird getting used to the fact that it's like, Oh, no, that's normal there. It's beautiful because I'll just see like a donkey in the middle in the middle of the road. This is like taking pictures. Yeah, I think Puerto Rico is such a beautiful, beautiful place. I absolutely love it. Yeah, we're not so nice to know.

Brooke [00:11:37] We're big fans of your home.

Gabriela [00:11:40] Thank you. Really appreciate it. And yeah I. The beaches,ugh. Oh yeah. Oh, it's on one. Really? Yeah. Love it.

Brooke [00:11:52] So beautiful. So warm. So nice. I never want to leave. Yeah. So that brings me to what? So I know you're your next step is just what is the test that you would take to get into veterinary school? So what does that test you're going to take in May called?

Gabriela [00:12:09] It is called the GRE and the Toffel thing. That's how it's pronounced. In my particular case, I do not have to take those because the universities I will apply to. I contacted them and they said that I don't need to to take them the GRE. Some universities are taking it out of the Toffel or I asked each university that I'm interested in. And I told them that I'm from Puerto Rico. And if there was any way because I'm an American citizen, if you know there's a way that I don't have to take the test and some university said that I didn't have to.

Brooke [00:12:53] OK, so you start applying. You said applying to schools in May then is that what you do? OK, so you're going to apply to schools in May and then you're going to take a gap year, which I think we should talk about that a little bit. I think it's really great and important to take a gap year, especially for you med students vet student, when your in school that long. I think it's really important to take a break, take a moment, take a beat, enjoy yourself. Definitely. Whatever it is that you need to just take a rest or get, take, prepare for school. So I'm really curious why you chose to do a gap year?

Gabriela [00:13:31] At first, I was one of those students. I was like, No, I'm going to graduate straight to that school. I was just like, That was my mentality. Because, you know, in college, they sometimes teach you in an indirect way that the faster you go, the better student you are. Or this mentality that if you take a gap year, you will get lazy and you will get you won't get things done. So I was in that mentality, but then I realized I was studying for four years straight and then into vet school for more years. And I was like, I need this gap year because things are going to move too fast and I will have to move to another country where, you know, I I don't know people. So I think I was like, Let me take a break to organize myself, maybe find a job, maybe get prepared for vet school, get more hands on experience and, you know, take that year to really get sinked in The fact that I'm going to go to med school, you know, because I feel like if I were to graduate and then straight to med school, it would be too hard on me and my mental health. So I was like, Let me just take it easy, Vet School. It's not going to move. So that's why I decided to take that gap here.

Brooke [00:15:02] Yeah, I think that's so smart. There is no rush. A year is definitely different a year or two or three. It's not going to make a difference. I wouldn't let a fear of like, Oh, you know, people tell you, Oh, once you're out of school, it's going to be so hard to get back in it. You're not going to want to. It's not true because you tell yourself what you want to do and you are responsible for your own future. So if you want to take a break, and I think that's great. I think taking a break is so smart because you are going to have the time to prepare yourself like you, but be also to you. You're going to grow a lot in that year. We change so much, especially when. Any year, the life experience that you'll gain just in that year is going to make you a different student. There's no harm in taking time, and I think everyone watching should not be afraid to take that time. Yeah, and don't let anyone rush you to because school is always there. It's not going to go anywhere.

Gabriela [00:16:03] And thank you for pointing that out because a lot of people do feel like I used to feel and I feel like that's so important to put it out there and to take care of our mental health and. And, you know, be aware where, where we stand and our limits, because I feel like especially in graduate, in graduate school, we need to have that awareness because it is so hard and you have to cram a lot of material and all that. So I think from an early age, you should be able to be aware of that in order to be successful in that experience or try not to experience burnout and all of that.

Brooke [00:16:45] Yeah, because you think about it you're in school, your whole life, and then you're going to go, you know, prolonged school even longer to get to get into the field you want to get into. And then once you started, it's not like you're going to stop, like once you become a veterinarian, Oh, I'm gonna take a, I'm just going to take a gap year this year. Yeah. And for like a year, it's not going to work like that. Once you start and you get into it, you're going to fly and you're going to be doing that,  until you retire or decide to do something else. So I think it's it's really smart and really great to take that time for yourself, and I'm glad that we talked about that. I'm curious. I have two questions for you now. First question is where are you looking to apply? What are your dream schools because you said you might go somewhere away from Puerto Rico? So I'm curious where you're going?

Gabriela [00:17:32] Okay. So my first option is the University of Florida because they have a shelter medicine program, and I met one of the professors and I feel like the program is just perfect for me and the place to I feel like you would be leaving home, but then going to a place where it's kind of similar, I think it would be a much smoother transition. My second option would be Cornell University because they do have a shelter medicine program as well. And for some reason, I always loved that university. I feel like I visit it once and it was so big and I met one of the professors as well, and they told me about the program. And I think that that program would fit perfectly for me. And my third option would be Michigan State University because I read about their program and  they don't have a shelter medicine program. But what I love about that university is that it has a lot of diversity, and a lot of my professors have told me that as a puerto rican student, it is harder to get into vet school because there's barely any diversity that they've always told me that my whole life. So I've been worried about that part and seeing that Michigan State University has this staple of of being diverse. I really love that. So that's my third option.

Brooke [00:19:03] Those all sound like wonderful. You're going to have to keep us posted because I'm going to be dying to find out where you end up, cause I'm going to follow your dream. You will have to have you back on. Okay. So I have another question for you because you talk, we talk a little bit about mental health burnout. What do you do for yourself to kind of like get back to yourself and advice you have for everyone watching who might be experiencing some sort of anxiety over school or depression or just not sure of their life? Like what? What do you do for yourself and what advice do you have for everyone watching?

Gabriela [00:19:36] Well, that's a very important question, and thank you for that. I honestly have been feeling burnout recently right now, and it's I got to admit that it's really hard. It's not easy going through it. But what I like to do is move. I like to work out because I feel like that helps me be more active. And the second thing I love to do is go to a shelter, go to a veterinary clinic and just to remind myself, why am I studying this other thing that it's really important? And I know for some people, it is very hard. It is hard for myself, but at least take one once a week, one day a week to just focus on you and do things that you love, like maybe a spa day or a self-care day. I feel like that is so important because sometimes if we fall routine, we can get really tired of it and we could get very unmotivated. So I feel like at least once a week getting that time for yourself and to spend time with friends outside of everything related to college, I feel like that really, really helps.

Brooke [00:20:58] Yeah, I think that sentiment is exactly true. I think you have to constantly. And the earlier you can start implementing that into your life. I think either earlier you can say I'm, I make the list of priorities, you know, my family, my mental health is a priority in my physical health. It's a priority in my spiritual health is a priority. I think it's really important to get into that habit just as much as you would the habit of studying or the habit of waking up early to make sure you get to class. I think it's it's really important that we do whatever that is and find that thing for you. You know, it's going to be different for everybody else. For me, it's exercising and it's spa stuff, it's face masks and the kind of self loving that way. But for someone else, it might be meditation. It might make coffee, it might be a bath, it might be something else. But I think it's really important to find that thing and to make sure that you make the list of priorities as often as you can, because you can't give to your studies or give to your family or give to your friends if you're kind of going from an empty cup. So it's really important that we replenish ourselves, especially for med students, nursing students. Definitely. It's what you guys are trying to do is extremely difficult, and it takes a lot of brainpower and a lot of time and a lot of perseverance and a lot of feeling. I mean, that's another thing I'd like to just bring up is that just because you fail a test or you fail, something doesn't mean that you shouldn't be doing it or you're not good enough to be doing it. It just means you failed. And that's OK. Pick it, pick it up and go again and again. The failing is not. It's not a big deal. I think definitely college. It can feel like that. Like, Oh my gosh, I failed. But that's when actually you learn and grow the most. You don't learn when you're winning all the time and you learn stuff when you go through the hard stuff, whether it's mental or not. That's the things that make you stronger, and that's the things that are going on. Have you have the resilience that you need to get to the other side of what you're trying to do so?

Gabriela [00:23:12] I completely agree with that and thank you for bringing that up about failing. I think I've felt that way. I felt like, Oh my God, I didn't get any of this class. Am I going to get accepted into bed school because? A lot of people have told me they have to have a perfect GPA and and all of that and I've learned the hard way that, OK, listen, I am not good in chemistry. I did my best. But when I go to that interview, I know I will be me and I will show me that application. So I think that's another thing that prevet students should know that it's OK to not have a perfect GPA or not have the perfect score. You know, it's about heart. And I think when you do things by heart and because you feel passionate about them, things just flow. Honestly, because I have learned that the hard way by failing. And it's really rewarding when you when you look back and you're like, OK, I've grown so much. And even though maybe I don't have the perfect GPA, I do want this. And I think that's the most important thing. Drive passion. And when you have that, everything just falls into place because you just work for it naturally. I couldn't agree with you more.

Brooke [00:24:44] And beautifully said yes, everyone listen to her. She knows what she's talking about. Thank you. Can I tell us a little bit about what you like to do when you're not studying, when you're not in school, dedicating your entire life to become a veterinarian? What what do you what is Gabriela like to do with her time?

Gabriela [00:25:05] I honestly love theater so much. And when I was in high school, I would participate in plays and I feel like that's I would consider that my hobby. I love theater taking theater class right now. And it's just so beautiful the the process of acting and and learning a monologue or just experiencing that, just getting into a character. I've always loved that. I love singing as well, so I'm more into when I'm not in in the field. I love arts. I honestly love singing theater. All things that have to do with art. I love meditating and yoga. I feel like that's such a beautiful way to express yourself and be aware of your body and be aware of what you can do. And you just notice, OK, wow, my body can actually do this and be grateful for it. So, yeah, outside of the field, I am more of a theater kid type of gal.

Brooke [00:26:23] Yeah, I think we you brought up yoga. It's really interesting because I like to do that as well. And you know, sometimes you'll be in a pose and it's yoga can really teach you things that can teach you like when you're in the middle of a pose, that's extremely difficult. You have to breathe through it and you have to hold that and you just have to breathe, focus on your breath. But as you move through that, you get to the other side of it and it teaches you a lot about life. Instead of running away from the pain, if we actually stay with the pain and go through the hard part, then the next time we do that pose it's a little easier. And by a time a year or two passes, we can do that pose no problem or we're deeper in the pose or we're more flexible. We're like, Wow, look at this progress. I mean, in just a year's time because you're you're you're not running from the pain, you're not running from the challenge you're facing. And I think that's a great, great life lesson is by meeting the challenge rising to the occasion. That's what's going to make you grow. That's going to make you stronger and that's just going to take you back. That's what's going to make you more successful. So I think it's yoga is a great way, a sentiment that goes with what you've been talking about. And also, I find it so interesting because I've done a few of these podcasts now. And when I'm speaking to people who are naturally empathetic because they care for animals or they want to care for people, they want to help people, they want to make people feel better like you. They always have a creative outlet like like whether it's singing or acting or painting or blogging writing. They always have some creative outlet, and I think that's really interesting and something to take a look at for everyone to watch as well. That because I think what you guys do is so can be so emotionally draining and so emotionally taxing because you care and because you're putting your heart out there for the animals, for the people that you have to have a way to kind of take that in and then find an outlet to express it. And it doesn't surprise me at all that you're into theater is empathy is the number one thing that it takes to be an actor. So and they can tell you have a great, empathetic heart. So keep doing that.

Gabriela [00:28:42] And it's so great to know because it just, you know, I would get so into getting to that school all my life, getting into vet school, getting into that school that sometimes people would ask me, Okay, so what are your hobbies? And I'll be like.

Brooke [00:29:00] Oh yeah, I might wait.

Gabriela [00:29:04] And then since that, since that awareness moment, I will say, OK, I have to go outside of veterinary medicine. What do I like? What what brings me happiness? And then I realized that it was theater and just being creative and getting into all of that singing. I feel like you take that moment and somehow just take all the stress, and it's just very different from being involved in a clinic or something. So it just takes away a little bit of that. Like you said, I've been drained and because you're in a different scenario, a different environment, that's good.

Brooke [00:29:52] And I think that's a really great point too, because I think that happens with anybody that's super focused on on their career, super focused on a dream. It can just become everything like because you love what you do. It Can easily be a hobby. Do you what I mean, like because you love animals going to a clinic on the weekend to help them? It's technically kind of studying and it's technically kind of work, but it's also a hobby because you like it. So there's nothing wrong with that. I think that's beautiful. I just think it's also important to remember that, you know, we have to. How even as painful, sometimes we have to like find those other outlets because for people who are going after a dream or they're going after something with their whole heart and they know this is what I want to do. You can become hyper super focused on it and kind of lose sight of the other things in your life. So I think it's great that you done yoga and you found theater, and I encourage everyone watching to remember that and also to just find other outlets as well, because it will only make you a better doctor. It'll only make you better Vet it will only make you a better nurse because you're living your life and experience and having other experiences. Well rounded. And yeah, so I think that's a really important thing. Awesome.

Gabriela [00:31:10] Definitely.

Brooke [00:31:11] Yeah. OK. So I have we've I've been I started this thing now where I ask you if there's anybody that you would want to nominate to be on the podcast. And what I mean by that is if you have anyone that you know and they don't necessarily have to be in the medical field that inspires you or motivates you or someone you think that you could have a good talk with on the podcast. And there's no pressure if you don't have anyone you want to nominate. But if you do, let me know because we can do another follow up podcast and have them and you on. And then I kind of just sit back and moderate and and if not, I can always find two if you don't have anyone. I can always find someone who's in veterinary school in Florida or in somewhere where you want to be, and then you can get on and talk to them and they can answer questions because they're a little bit further in the journey than you and kind of connect you that way as well. So.

Gabriela [00:32:15] Oh, that sounds amazing, so we we could double the idea. Yes, well, definitely I have a person. I've been following this girl for a while. She's a private two and a senior. She's called Melissa Harris in Instagram. She's Dr Melissa. And I feel like. We connected so much to this journey, and I feel like we both have different perspectives because she is studying a bachelor's degree. I think animal science or animal related, so it would be cool to see the different experiences and all that.

Brooke [00:33:02] So definitely her. I love that. So let's make that happen. Let's get her new on again. And then maybe I can even get a third person who's already maybe in the middle of veterinary school here and see if we can all get on and do a do a fun little podcast where we all kind of talk about where we are because I think it's great too for people watching. So many people are on different stages and it's always great that we might say, Oh my gosh, OK, well, they're doing something similar. It may not be exactly the same, but they're doing something similar to what I'm doing. And how did they go? How did they approach it? Where are they in their journey and how? How, how, what advice do they have and how did they get there? Because it gets interesting as you talk to people on different, different levels of their journey. It's really fun to kind of.

Gabriela [00:33:54] Definitely.

Brooke [00:33:55] I really agree with that. Well, Gabriela, thank you so much for joining our crafting on this podcast, it's been such a pleasure having you on. And I can't wait to have you on again and for everyone watching. I'm going to link all of her and her information, her Instagram and everything below so that you can go check her out and follow her journey. And I'm sure if you have any question that you're thinking about getting into veterinary medicine or questions about Puerto Rico and what it's like stepping in there, I'm sure she'd be happy to answer those questions.

Gabriela [00:34:27] Thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor, and I'm so humbled, really. Thank you.



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