Queens, NY native Rachel Fuentes, DVM, always looked forward to childhood visits with her aunt, because she had so many pets and was a volunteer at a local animal hospital. She loved helping to feed and care for numerous dogs, cats and birds—in fact, at just 8 years old, she witnessed a live surgery on a ferret.
“I thought that was just the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” Dr. Fuentes recalls. “Since then, my dreams of becoming a vet have never wavered.”
Fast-forward a couple decades, and her dreams have been fulfilled—and then some. Earlier this year, Dr. Fuentes left her previous practice to join VCA Northside Animal Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut. Within three months, she was promoted to Medical Director.
“It’s something I’ve been working towards and I’m very happy,” says Dr. Fuentes. “I’m still seeing appointments, but I’ve taken on some of the managerial aspects, which are new to me. I get another piece of the puzzle.”’
Dr. Fuentes began her journey as a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) after high school, as a stepping stone to her ultimate career goals. Dr. Fuentes was fortunate to work alongside a Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) graduate who spoke often of the positive experiences she had there. She had already begun considering RUSVM after meeting representatives at a Continuing Education seminar. Ultimately, it was the only veterinary school application Dr. Fuentes ended up submitting.
An Everlasting Bond
Dr. Fuentes recalls a number of experiences and moments at RUSVM that she deemed life changing.
“After I arrived on campus, there was an immediate bond with my classmates. Strangers became friends, and these friends became family in a matter of days,” she explains. “We struggled together, we celebrated together, and were—and still are—always supportive of each other,” she says.
In addition, the student-focused curriculum at RUSVM offered Dr. Fuentes the opportunity to work one-on-one with her professors.
“All of my professors always had an open door policy, and took the time to explain concepts, and help me grasp challenging new material,” she says.
Putting Patients First
Dr. Fuentes has been in general practice since graduating. Yet another key part of her professional life concerns not just treating patients, but also advocating for them. She completed an externship with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), during which she lobbied senators and representatives in Washington about issues that impact pet owners and veterinarians.
“Being on Capitol Hill and speaking with our legislators is a humbling experience and gives a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise have one,” says Dr. Fuentes. “Patient advocacy is about doing, and thinking, and being for the animals first.”
She also enjoys sharing insight into being a veterinarian, and hopes to inspire others through her social media presence.
“I put up a mixture of animals and experiences. Some of it is fluffy and cute, some of it is gross or strange—I try to put the reality out there,” she says. “Maybe some 14- or 15-year-old will see it and think to themselves, ‘Hey, this stuff is cool, maybe I want to go to vet school.’”
And even though Dr. Fuentes earned her DVM in 2011, she’s always learning and keeping up with the newest developments in an ever-changing industry. She’s currently in the process of becoming a certified veterinary acupuncturist through the Chi Institute.
“I’m glad to be able to add another piece to the toolbox that Ross has given me,” says Dr. Fuentes. “RUSVM made it possible for me to realize a lifelong dream, and I will always work hard to remain the doctor and person that the school molded me into.”