During his Internship, Dr. Farrelly, Found his Calling as a Veterinary Oncologist

A veterinary oncologist is a board-certified specialty that requires extensive training after veterinary school. A veterinary oncologist completes 3-5 years of internships, residencies, and examinations, in order to become a certified in Medical Oncology by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM).

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What Is A Veterinary Oncologist?

Cancer is a disease that affects all species, from dogs and cats to people. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cancer patients to be told they have just months or weeks to live.

Veterinary oncologists are veterinarians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in animals. They have completed three years of clinical training after graduating from veterinary school, followed by an additional two-year residency program that focuses on treating cancer patients.

The goal of veterinary oncology is to improve the quality of life of pets with cancer as well as to advance methods of treatment. If you want to learn about veterinary radiologists, which is another board-certified specialty we have an article.

Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.

John Farrelly, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 1994

Do you have a specialty?

My specialty is as a Veterinary Oncologist.

I am an oncologist (ACVIM) and a radiation oncologist (ACVR).

What was your major in undergraduate college?

Classical Civilization.

At what age did you first apply to vet school? 


How many schools did you apply to?

6 this was limited because I went to undergrad in New York City and many vet schools required animal husbandry classes that were not available at my school.

How many application cycles did you apply to, before being accepted? 


How many schools invited you for an interview? 

5 – I believe, it is hard to remember.

How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?

I do not remember.

What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?

>3.9 – don’t remember exactly but 3.94 comes to mind.

What was your GRE score?

2300 out of 2400

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Did you attend grad school?


What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school? 

Doorman and a vet assistant vs a vet tech.

How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?


Did you volunteer? If so, where? 

A Local racetrack and a large specialty hospital.

When did you decide to become a vet?

When I was applying to college.

Did you interview any Vets before starting the application process?


Were you a member of any clubs at your school? If so, which ones?

In undergrad – pre-med society, yearbook staff, Gaelic society.

Did you apply for vet school after, or during your bachelor’s degree?


Who gave you your letters of recommendation and did you know them well?

One vet tech, and one DVM I had worked with both extensively.

Are you happy that you chose this career?

Very much.

What about your specialty as a veterinary oncologist (ACVIM)  and a radiation oncologist (ACVR) makes you most happy?

The thing that makes me most happy about my career choice, as a veterinary oncologist, is that I get the opportunity to help animals and their caretakers, in a time that can be very tough.  Getting a diagnosis of cancer can be very difficult.  In my career, I get to help people through this and help keep their pets comfortable for whatever time they have left.

 Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?

There is nothing that you will take part in that you can not learn from. If you think you are in a boring lecture, learn how not to give a lecture. IF you are in a talk about something completely out of your area of interest, learn about presentation style etc. If you come out of a learning experience saying that you learned nothing, that is on you.

Any study tips? 

Never stop studying and learning.

Have there been any classes, within your DVM program that were especially relatable to your current position?


What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program?

Anatomy – so much to memorize. Use anatomy flashcards to help you memorize.

As a Doctor, has there been any particular case that was your favorite? 

Can’t say – there are so many interesting ones.

Regarding your specialty as an oncologist, how did you get into that? Was it something you became interested in during your veterinary studies at Cornell or after?

I knew in veterinary school that I wanted to specialize in one of the medical fields, but I did not realize what I really wanted to do until I was in my internship, and I got the chance to work on the oncology service.  I think a big part of my decision was because I loved the people that I worked with then, but I also fell in love with helping animals that had been diagnosed with cancer.

What has been your most challenging case?

Can’t say, so many challenging ones.

Do you frequently have to research cases, on off hours?

Uncommon but I do frequently look things up during work hours.

Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer  (– regarding cancer-) by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
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  • Siddhartha Mukherjee (Author) - Fred Sanders (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
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Do you have any last words of wisdom for anyone else thinking about becoming a veterinary oncologist?

If you love what you are doing…then your job will be a passion and not a job.

How can people find you?

On linkedIn and  Facebook.

If you are thinking about applying to Cornell, we have 2 other interviews with Cornell students here. 

Getting into Cornell veterinary school took a lot of hard work + dedication.

Dr. Slade is a DVM that graduated from Cornell University and is now a veterinary internist.