Support extends beyond classroom as Bio grad heads to veterinary school

Amanda Gaytan ’15 thrived in Dominican’s supportive environment. Hands-on research with faculty mentors developed her passion for science, a field biology course in New Zealand deepened her sense of community with both faculty and peers, and on-the-job training solidified her decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

In the fall, Amanda will enter The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She credits the advice and support she received from her Dominican mentors for helping get her there.

“Dominican is about the community you build with your professors and peers and how you can all work together,” says Amanda, whose mentors include San Rafael-based veterinarian Dr. Frederick Frye, Jr., who received his MBA from Dominican in 2003. “You need others to help you.”

Amanda, who attended Foothill High School in Pleasanton, selected Dominican over a larger research university because of Dominican’s focus on undergraduate research. Dominican integrates research into the science curriculum beginning with a student’s first year. This hands-on exposure laboratory research allows undergraduates to sharpen their critical thinking skills, learn to balance collaborative and individual work, and determine their areas of interest. The research-intensive science curriculum also helps students jump start their careers in science and medicine.

“The research experience establishes an intimate community and a family within your bigger science major,” Amanda says. “It really sets you up with your mentor, a professor, who can help you grow and become the professional you want to be.”

Amanda originally planned to focus on forensic biology in the School of Health and Natural Sciences with the goal of eventually earning a PhD in forensic biology. However, a series of engaged learning experiences helped Amanda realize her true passion.

“All the pieces fell where they were supposed to go,” Amanda says.

During an immersion course in New Zealand, led by Dr. Vania Coelho and Dr. Roland Cooper, Amanda studied the connections between science and nature through visits to several wildlife reserves – including one focused on native bird incubation and protection.

An internship with Guide Dogs for the Blind opened her eyes to a career in veterinary medicine.

After graduation, the Dominican circle of support grew when Amanda started working as a veterinary assistant with Dr. Frye at West End Animal Center in San Rafael.

“I have had so much hands-on work I wouldn’t even imagined I would get at another veterinary clinic,” Amanda says.

Dr. Frye has been passing along some valuable advice in the months leading up to Amanda’s departure to veterinary school.

“I’ve been telling her to volunteer for everything that comes her way,” he says. “The experiences she will gain by getting involved in a wide variety of activities will be invaluable.”

He speaks with authority.  Dr. Frye’s decision to earn an MBA was largely due to the changing nature of his profession.

“We learned about veterinary medicine at vet school, but we did not learn how to run a business,” he says.

Dr. Frye received his BS in Biology from Lewis & Clark College. He then joined the San Diego Zoo Research Facility working with reptiles and birds to determine protocol to help propagate endangered species. While doing research at the San Diego Zoo, Dr. Frye attended San Diego State and obtained a MS in Reproductive Endocrinology in 1985. He then attend Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, earning his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1989.

Shortly after starting his business, his sister-in-law asked about his profit and loss statement. “I had no idea what she was talking about at the time,” Dr. Frye recalls. “That’s why I enrolled in the MBA – so that I could gain the knowledge I needed to run my own business.”

While Dr. Frye’s on-the-job training and sage advice has been invaluable, Amanda also credits Dominican’s Dr. Diara Spain and Dr. Kristylea Ojeda for helping her develop her veterinary school application. Both suggested Amanda take an additional biochemistry course in order to stand out.

“It was the best decision I ever made. It has prepared me to go to veterinary school with a higher level of thinking,” Amanda says. “There was an overall concept in the class and you have to apply it and use your critical thinking to answer questions. It’s a lot like the medical industry. They are not going to have clear-cut circumstances or cases. It’s going to be a mixture of so many different things that you are going to have to decide what’s best for your patient.”


June 13, 2017