For anyone who has ever felt the comfort of someone watching over them, protecting them, and keeping them safe, the impact of such a presence is often life-changing. Such is the case for Ross University Veterinary School of Medicine (Ross Vet) clinical student, Joshua Taylor, class of 2021. And for Joshua, his comforting protector was his family’s pet, Kugel.
“My first pet was a rottweiler named Kugel. I was just a newborn at the time and was told that Kugel would protect me as if I were her puppy, watching over me, keeping me safe, even warning my parents when I needed attention even before I started to cry!”
Years passed and Kugel was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout Kugel’s treatment, Joshua remained at her side, joining his parents at every veterinary appointment. It was during this time that another influencing presence entered Joshua’s life, the veterinarian treating Kugel. “He was very compassionate, honest, and understanding. He really made an impact on me and my family during a very difficult time and I remember thinking that I want to be that same veterinarian to all my future patients’ families.”
Since childhood, Joshua’s only response to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ has been “a veterinarian”. In fact, a letter Joshua had written while in first-grade, still hangs on his parent’s refrigerator declaring that he “wants to become a vet to save the animals, cure cancer, and provide prosthetics to them,” adding his surprise that in first grade, he knew what prosthetics were!
Throughout high school, followed by his time earning his Associate of Science degree in Veterinary Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science at Becker College, Joshua progressed from a volunteer at a local pet store to a certified veterinary technician (CVT) ultimately working full-time and gaining valuable clinical experience, before applying to Ross Vet.
And it was while working as a CVT, Joshua recalls another event that affected his decision to study veterinary medicine and furthered his resolve. “I will never forget an experience I had while working as CVT, the only male and the only Black person in the clinic. One afternoon, while wearing scrubs, a lady walked past my coworkers, approached me, and asked me to dispose of some trash for her. Confused, but willing to help, I pointed to the wastebasket behind her. Trying to understand her request, I asked her why she asked me to dispose of her trash. ‘Aren’t you the janitor?’ was her response. Disappointed, yes, but I can’t blame her for thinking that the only Black worker must be the janitor. During all my years working in animal hospitals, I’ve only met four Black veterinarians and two veterinary support team members. I’m proud to help bring change to the face of what people think a veterinarian looks like.”
And impacting that change quickly was what Joshua aimed to do. A key factor in Joshua’s decision to move to St. Kitts and attend Ross Vet is our accelerated program, planning to complete veterinary school as soon as possible. Yet the appeal of island life and the support of the St. Kitts community drew him in even more. “The St. Kitts community really has my heart. Everyone is so warm and welcoming; they treat you like family wherever you go. I got used to being the only Black guy or person in the room, so moving to St. Kitts where everyone looked like me was really a breath of fresh air.”
While on the island, Joshua immersed himself in the St. Kitts community, participating in local fundraising events and exploring the island while also gaining valuable professional experience. Joshua served as vice president for the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) and as a member of the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) and numerous other clubs.
As Joshua approaches the end of his clinical year at Purdue University, he acknowledges the tremendous support from so many along the way. Sharing, “My entire family has been my support system throughout everything, but my mother is truly my number one fan. She pushes me to do better at everything, always at my side when I get knocked down and right there to guide me to get back up. I love that woman to bits and pieces.” Adding, “The rich diversity of the Ross Vet staff offered insight into so many new and interesting cultures and they were always available to help in any way possible. My fellow students, all of us in the same boat, creating a bond of friendship to last a lifetime. I couldn’t imagine going through veterinary school without them.” Sincere words that recall the “compassionate, honest and understanding” Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Joshua Taylor always hoped to be.