Getting into veterinary school and becoming a veterinarian is not an easy task, but with hard work and dedication, it can definitely be accomplished! Kevin made his dream of becoming a veterinarian a reality!
Kevin Ruiz is a member of the inaugural cohort of a combined Masters of Animal Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at Colorado State University. He is set to complete the Masters of Animal Science (coursework, thesis, and project) within 1 year and continue on to veterinary school in the fall of 2018.
Kevin’s passion for animals was handed down to him by his dad. “He had a way with animals. He was able to establish a level of trust to the animals he cared for whether it was caring for baby birds or a broken wing to doctoring wounds on small and large animals. He would always put their needs first.”
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Kevin Ruiz, Colorado State University. I am a member of the inaugural cohort of a combined Masters of Animal Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. I began this program Fall of 2017.
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
I currently have 3 pets with me. I share my life with a two-year-old Belgian Malinois named Oakley, a 10-month red merle Australian Shepherd named Copper, and a one-year-old Grey tabby mix (who secretly thinks she’s a dog) named Cinder.
Do you think there were any specific experiences or items on your application that helped to strengthen it?
Copious clinical experiences in several fields of veterinary medicine and animal sciences, as well as leadership positions and involvement in other organizations, strengthened my application. I had the opportunity to represent Texas and speak in front of 23,000 people at the National Catholic Youth Conference in 2011, which may have enhanced the application. I also helped in shot clinics and was involved in research in the growth hormones of hepatocarcinomas.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
I attended West Texas A&M University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences.
Did you apply to vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
I applied the cycle before graduation.
Did you attend grad school?
I am a member of the inaugural cohort of a combined Masters of Animal Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at Colorado State University. I began this program Fall of 2017. I will complete an entire Masters of Animal Science (coursework, thesis, and project) within 1 year and continue on to Veterinary school in the fall of 2018.
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
I was 22 years old when I applied to veterinary school.
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
I applied to five schools in one cycle.
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
I was waitlisted at two schools.
How many schools invited you for an interview?
One, Colorado State University invited me for an interview.
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
One, Colorado State University offered me an acceptance letter.
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
I went through MMI questions. They were all situation questions, gauging who you are as a person in answering the questions. There is not really a right or wrong answer to them, so I wouldn’t say they were challenging. My advice for future applicants in any school that utilizes MMI is to make your answer personal. Think of how a life experience would go into shaping how you answer the question, and look at the different aspects of the question when answering.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
My undergraduate GPA was a 3.2
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What was your GRE score?
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
I honestly cannot remember, I participated in some intramural sports during undergraduate studies, but most of my time I spent it directly in clinics or doing animal-related activities.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school?
I grew up in an agriculture-rich community in the Texas panhandle. The Agricultural extension officer took me under his lead and introduced me to his pig breeding operation and involved me with 4-H and FFA. I also participated in stock shows growing up. I began my veterinary journey following veterinarians at a Mobile Veterinary clinic who specialized on horses. I then began to be involved in a general small animal clinic and spent a small amount of time working with exotics with the zoo veterinarian. My experiences then shifted to animal husbandry while I worked as a ranch hand on a farm for another veterinarian caring and doctoring his 800 head of cattle, 200 head of sheep, and small pig operation.
After leaving the farm, I went to work for a small animal emergency clinic. At the small animal emergency clinic, I was exposed to the kennel tech aspect and hospital care as well as becoming one of the ultrasound technicians. During my education, I was also introduced to a variety of benchmarks such as meat judging, as well as the meat slaughtering and processing that we do in the agricultural world. I also learned about necropsies and applying the knowledge to real-world applications.
I spend many mornings at our university feedlot working under veterinarians in the large animal aspect. My last clinical experiences were done at a walk-in small animal clinic that had only 1 veterinarian on board. The clinic would see over 500 patients a day, with all hands on board at all times of the day. We offered lab testing on site, as well as other services such as ultrasound, dental work, oncology treatment, radiology, and physical therapy. When I was not scheduled to work at the small animal clinic, I was at a mixed practice veterinary clinic working and learning about cattle and horses.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
I worked in a variety of clinics (small, large, mixed, and exotics). I also worked with Golden Spread Council as a program aide and as a Program Director in addition to summer teaching help at a Wesley Community Center, and waiting tables.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
My free time was spent working with a horse rehabilitation center, working on re-introducing the human-animal bond with horses that had been abandoned or mistreated. I also helped at thematic retreats with the Diocese of Amarillo and was the mass communicator for two of the area conferences. I also volunteered at different horse shows held at the university, both English/jumper and western style riding.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
Six people read my personal statement before I submitted it. Readers included my best friends who were also applying to medical school at the time, as well as my mentors growing up, and employer.
When did you decide to become a vet?
I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I believe my passion branches from my dad. He had a way with animals. He was able to establish a level of trust to the animals he cared for whether it was caring for baby birds or a broken wing to doctoring wounds on small and large animals. He would always put their needs first. My last memory before he passed, was sitting on the porch of our house watching him feed a squirrel from the palm of his hand. Those moments and memories instilled in me the drive and aspiration to become a veterinarian.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
I had several mentors growing up. My main source of knowledge would have to fall on my greatest role models in Veterinary Medicine and that would be Dr. Lee Bob Harper. He is the Associate Director for Beef Strategic Technical Services at Zoetis in the Texas area. My next mentor was Samuel Ives who taught at my University and also had work with Zoetis. Dr. Harper knew me since my childhood days and had the opportunity to see me grow into the student I am today. Dr. Ives happened to hear about my development and growth through Dr. Harper in addition to being my professor.
Thankfully I was able to contact both several times to gauge an understanding of how to write my essays to the veterinary schools and how to better prepare for the next step. I am still in direct contact with them, and I find myself contacting them every two weeks or so to discuss the things we are being taught in an effort to apply them in the real world.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
In my first year of undergraduate, I was a member of Block and Bridle, Collegiate FFA, Horseman Association, and the Pre-Veterinary Club. Moving forward I remained a member and even held a position in the Pre-Veterinary Club. I was also an officer for the American Chemical Society at my institution.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program? If so, which ones? Were they helpful?
Yes, so many of them!! I am in the American Association of Bovine Practicioners (AABP), American Association of Equine Practicioners (AAEP), American Association of Small Ruminant Practicioners (AASRP), Diagnostic Imaging Club (DIC), Colorado State Theriogenology Club, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), Pain Management Club(SCIVAPM), Student Association of Veterinary Surgeons (SAVS), Student Chapter of the Veterinary Dental Society (SCVDS), Student Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society (SVECCS), Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA), American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, and currently hold an officer position in the American Association of Veterinary Nutrition.
In addition to clubs, I was also part of a tutoring program the veterinary school has in conjunction to CSU main campus that reaches out to different elementary students. Triunfo is a tutoring program here at CSU that pairs college students with elementary students to bridge this gap. College enrollment from these schools is the lowest in the area, so Triunfo starts at an early age to make these kids feel like they belong to the campus community.
As far as the veterinary clubs yes, they have all been very helpful. I would say I handle stress differently. Most people can go and work out or hike the tallest mountain to alleviate their stress, but I am the kind of person that even after climbing the tallest mountain my mind is still focused on all the demands I am having to meet at the base of the mountain. I find peace in the applications of veterinary medicine because while being in the clinic I am forced to put the animal’s needs before mine and for that moment I forget about the stress I am in and am able to work with the situation at hand.
The wet labs also work to remind me the reason why I chose this career and why I am pushing through school to get there. The dinner lectures have allowed me to interact with my fellow peers as well as successful practitioners in our area and field.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I sent different letters to different schools given that some were alumni from their program. I had the opportunity to work with them in some type of way or had known them for many years. My main letters for veterinary school were from Dr. Harper a DVM that had known me practically my entire life, Chase Roach a director of Golden Spread Council who I worked for as Program Director of their non-profit, and Dr. Faulkner an established DVM whom I had done most of the clinical experiences with.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
During the time I was applying, I was working 85-90 hours a week while taking a summer course so my life was very stressful, overall. Thankfully I had a great best friend who would stay up with me practically every night until 4-5 am helping me edit my essays and better sell myself on paper. Had it not be thanks to him, I do not know if I would have gotten everything finished and sent in on time.
Side note, I did not realize that most schools also had a supplemental application so when I applied for Texas A&M I did only the TVMDAS application realizing a month after everything had been sent that I did not complete the supplemental one that you would find on their website. After some phone calls and moments of desperation, I was able to get that to them, but as words of advice “LOOK FOR ALL APPLICATIONS!!”
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
I love it! I would not choose any other place to be. I enjoy working with and learning from a variety of brilliant minds and the constant intellectual challenge. Finding better ways to care for patients, while assessing their pain and working to fix the issues makes me happy about my career choice. The friendships you make along the way are also invaluable. What makes me most happy about this career choice you ask, I would have to say it’s the journey.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Contact current veterinary students!!! They are your direct source to what is happening at the institution. They can also guide you in regards to housing and what you will need as you transition to this next step in life. As a year 0, I had the opportunity to speak to the students who interviewed at Colorado State University. I told many of the candidates to message me as soon as they got their acceptance to CSU, so I could start adding them to our Facebook page for Class of 2022. That page not only gives you a way to start connecting with your class but allows you to ask your peers about life at your new institution.
Any study tips?
I learn by application. I have to apply what I am learning to a process, so during the semester, I would rewrite my notes and even record myself going over them. I would then play the recordings as I drove from place to place or walked through campus to literally force myself to think of what was being said. Reading peer-reviewed articles on the subject matter is also a great tool for understanding new topics.
As a student, did you have to take out loans for your education? If so, are you concerned about the amount of debt you will have after graduation?
As a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student, I do not qualify for any federal loans, so I worked 2-3 jobs at a time during undergraduate in addition to having my family’s support when times were tough. In regards to the combined program, I was accepted into, I had the honor to have the first year, being the Master’s portion of this combined program, fully paid for in addition to a monthly stipend and in-state tuition for Veterinary school.
I am still in the process of trying to figure out how I will manage to pay off the rest of Veterinary school given that DACA is unstable. I am in the process of applying for a multitude of scholarships moving forward. I have been advised by my 4th years and faculty members that when applying for loans, choose the minimum amount. Learn to budget!!
Is there anything in particular about your DVM program or the school itself that you like?
Growing up in the Texas panhandle, I had first-hand experiences in agriculture and it allowed me to engage with the animal industry and agricultural community, especially after the devastating fires last year. As a community, we came together to aid not only the cattle and livestock affected but the farmers as well.
As a community, we were committed to doctoring cattle and helping collect funds and materials for all affected. Some of us lost friends and even family, but it reminded us that even in the ashes life goes on and it is up to each one of us to care for it. I am blessed to come from an agricultural rich background, though my background brought to my awareness the profound need and scarcity of veterinarians in the cattle industry. While visiting feedlots and ranches during my undergraduate years, I was able to observe that the operations would do what both the nutritionist and veterinarian had advised. It became a point where they were literally throwing money at the animals hoping something would stick.
With the opportunity CSU has given me in this new combined veterinary program, I have had the chance to work with both the Animal Science Industry and the veterinary world in hopes to build a bridge as a Nutritionist and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. I hope that through this benchmark, I can provide better service to our community and livestock. As we move forward, there are fewer farms and ranches available with the demand to feed the world. For the community that is committed to that, I want to help them do so.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about attending your University?
Thankfully I have had the honor to work directly with both Animals Sciences and the veterinary school and I can full-heartedly say that they truly put their students first. They are fully involved in their student’s success and strive to give the students access to experience even outside of the program where they can gain hands-on experiences and applications to the real world. Even as busy as everyone is, they always make time for the students. I have created close relationships with many practitioners, where I can literally walk into their office and discuss topics, gaining even more thorough understanding. One example, coming from the Texas panhandle, most of my cattle background pertained to beef cattle and cow-calf operations.
Coming here to CSU, I had the opportunity to work with many Dairy practitioners. I spend several times during the semester discussing dairy with Dr. Noa Muniz, reading peer-reviewed articles over diseases and illness that occur during the transitional period, and then applying what I had learned on a Dairy field service under practitioners from the veterinary teaching hospital.
So my advice would be to reach out to all of CSU’s resources even if it is not directly associated to the veterinary school and take in any opportunity as an experience to learn even if it is just a conversation.
At this point do you think you will have a specialty?
I plan to track mixed practice in the program (domestic and livestock). I have always been interested in surgery, so I hope to continue on with that dream. I think at this point only time will tell.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
As a member of AAEP, I get different magazine subscriptions. There were some interesting colic articles I read last semester. I am also subscribed to Clinician’s Brief and Veterinary Team Brief. Aside from those, I find many articles from the Journal of Animal Sciences and the Journal of Dairy Science interesting.
I enjoyed reading ketosis articles by Luciano Caixeta and Jessica McArt, Doctors of Veterinary Medicine who both worked at CSU. You can google their names on google scholar and find interesting articles by them. Any books? I really enjoyed reading out of The Ruminant Animal: Digestive Physiology and Nutrition by D.C. Church. Most small animal articles I come by are either things I am presented during wet labs or cases I read in the monthly magazines I mentioned.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
Network!! Step out of your comfort zone and find an opportunity to get your feet wet, especially when they are not paying you!! I know, that sounds counterintuitive given how much vet school costs! Trust me though, use those opportunities of free labor to prove to the employers and to yourself that you are in this field because you love every aspect of it.
Lastly, stay humble! No matter how big you make it and the many certifications and skills you bring to the table remember what your parents taught you, respect each other and take every opportunity to be a better version of yourself!
How can people find you?
Facebook, Kevin Daniel Ruiz
I am happy to read any personal statements and prompt for applying, just give me about 3-4 weeks and prompt information so I can help you get the most from it!
Here are a few other interviews with students who were waitlisted.
- Cortney was waitlisted for a month before she received the phone call that changed her life.
- Sara attends Washington State and was waitlisted at one school.
- Dr. Klein was accepted to 4 vet schools and waitlisted at NCSU.