For Jenny Kim, Class of ’25, the path to Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet) and pursuing a career as a veterinarian has been more nontraditional compared to her peers. She enrolled in Ross Vet’s Vet Prep program before starting the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum and earned her Master of Science (MSc) in One Health at Ross Vet before even applying to the DVM program. But before Ross Vet became the biggest step toward her calling, her grandfather’s dream career was forced to an end.
Kim’s family immigrated to the United States from Korea, settling in New York City to create a better future for generations to come. Kim’s grandfather, a veterinarian, intended to open a practice once the family was settled into their new lives but discovered that licensing requirements to practice veterinary medicine in the United States did not match what was required practicing in Korea. “He could not be a veterinarian, so he gave up his career and opened up a dry-cleaning store,” recalled Kim. For 30 years, Dr. Kim built his laundromat business and left veterinary medicine behind. His passion and love for animals would never go away.
“Growing up, he instilled in me his love of animals and how to care for them. He is my inspiration for becoming a veterinarian and it means a lot for me to carry on his legacy because he gave up his career for our family to have a better life in the United States, so I think that by pursuing my dream, I am also fulfilling his and I know that he would be proud.”
Kim’s parents eventually moved from New York to New Jersey, where everyone she encountered growing up knew she would be a veterinarian one day. She carried a little blue book of animals and how to care for different species everywhere she went and was known as “Dr. Jenny” as a child. She would begin her academic journey in her home state at Rutgers University, earning her Bachelor of Science. Along with her academic coursework, Kim also spent five years as a veterinary technician in both small and large clinics and a laboratory technician at IDEXX Laboratories to further along her experiences in the field before the next step toward her DVM degree.
As an Asian woman, establishing her career and expertise in veterinary medicine has driven Kim to continuously learn and enhance her skillset through her academic and professional career. Her grandfather was the only medical professional she knew that was Asian, so other inspirations to become who she is today were nonexistent. “It is a worthy pursuit for me to show others like me it can be done,” said Kim. “Exposure and representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) matters, especially in a field where I am a minority.” In the veterinary field, only 5.6% of the workforce identifies as Asian (source).
A new opportunity to shine more light on underrepresentation for Asians in veterinary medicine came with the formation of the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals (AAVMP) student chapter. Kim will serve as the chapter’s first social media coordinator when the chapter is officially welcomed to campus at the start of the Summer 2022 semester, putting her in a position to showcase underrepresented minorities at Ross Vet and beyond. “I want to put more people out there and provide a platform to share our experiences. It is important to prop each other up and use social media as a tool for increasing representation and bonding from our shared experiences. I can use social media and the AAVMP to show people that their goals and dreams are attainable aspirations that were once our goals and dreams.”
Though Kim is still in the early stages of her journey toward her DVM, a lifetime of family legacy and creating a new opportunity for herself has brought her to Ross Vet. Where majority of students come to Ross Vet for their DVM, Kim opted to first pursue her MSc in One Health while working full-time as a lab monitor in clinical research studies. Though it is a nontraditional pathway, it has led to Kim becoming a published author from her work studying Ancylostoma (hookworms) in dogs in St. Kitts with Jennifer Ketzis, BS, MS, PhD, professor of parasitology and coordinator of Ross Vet’s One Health program. The co-authors of the study will meet once again as student and professor in Dr. Ketzis’ Parasitology course during the Summer 2022 semester.