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Spring 2023 Clark Law Group Scholarship Winner

Kathleen Velez

Kathleen Velez

Kathleen Velez is a high-achieving student in her fourth year of college at the University of Central Florida. In her essay, readers learn of Kathleen’s academic journey and what led her to her ultimate educational and career goals. Clark Law Group is proud to bring some relief to expenses that college students like Kathleen face throughout their schooling.

Read Kathleen’s Essay:

I’ve been asked countless times “how do you know you want to become a veterinarian?” The answer is simple, my experiences have proven it to me. As a kid, I was always seen for my interest in animals and was told that I could be a veterinarian one day. It wasn’t until high school that I became eager to immerse myself in the field. I was accepted into a program where I could graduate as a CVA (Certified Veterinary Assistant) and raise livestock. Instead of waiting until junior year, I decided to push aside that I was 14 years old and find a veterinary clinic that would allow me to volunteer. After several declines, one clinic had finally accepted me. With 2 years of volunteering, I was able to see all aspects of working at a veterinary clinic. This stepping stone was the beginning of answering the question of why veterinary medicine is the career for me.

After graduation, I moved to Gainesville, FL to earn my AA in Animal Science at Santa Fe College. Volunteering at my first veterinary clinic was captivating, but I wanted to take it a step further. I had to take advantage that I was living in the city where the only veterinary school in Florida resided. So, I began volunteering in the Zoology and Radiology Department at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital. Here is where my interest in zoological medicine sparked. Soon after, I was hired as an assistant in the emergency room/intensive care unit. One of my responsibilities consisted of handling all the patients that had unfortunately passed. As heartbreaking as this was, I learned how to manage the emotional burden that follows veterinary medicine. I was also able to make several connections with doctors and learned about their path toward medicine. One of the doctors recommended me to another hospital where I was trained as a veterinary technician. My fundamental skill set came from working at Newberry Animal Hospital. Upon my acceptance to the University of Central Florida, I moved to Orlando, FL to continue my studies towards earning a bachelor’s degree in biology/zoology. I sought to continue improving and growing my skill set as a veterinary technician and obtained a position working with exotics at Kirkman Road Veterinary Clinic.

At the start of my first semester at UCF, I was accepted into Transfer-Student Research and Integration Program (T.R.I.P). Here, my curiosity for research began to unravel. The research explores the effects of agrochemicals used in farming on mosquito development, survivorship, and ability as a viral vector. Here I learned about One Health and how the goal of the research is to reach optimal health. Then, I was unwillingly forced to contemplate a secondary plan if vet school was not a feasible option. Thankfully, with the guidance and teachings of my mentors, I came across a DVM/Ph.D. dual degree. I was able to combine two different areas of science that I am passionate about without having to pick one over the other. The following semester, I enrolled in immunology and became fascinated. For this reason, I decided to switch my major to biomedical sciences. T.R.I.P had also encouraged me to apply for a summer research program. I came across a program at Michigan State University (MSU) offering to integrate students from veterinary medicine into biomedical science research. I was accepted and will be spending the rest of the summer here at MSU. My summer research project at MSU is to assess the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on white blood cells to lessen the effects of neurocognitive disorders that follow individuals with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). From this experience so far, I’ve quickly learned about the different opportunities I can obtain with the dual degree program. My goal is to work in public health and emerging diseases in the government. My father served 24 years in the army and has inspired me to do the same. This scholarship will relieve some of the burdens that come with the cost of pursuing this degree and I look forward to improving animal and human health. As a woman in STEM, a first-generation college student, and a member of the Latino community, I am eager to diversify the field and stand proud in my family name.

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