Supportive learning environment leads alumna to veterinary school

Currently in her second year in Veterinary School at The Ohio State University, Amanda Gaytan ’15 recalls how much she 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 with a Dominican MBA alum solidified her decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine

"Dominican’s focus on critical thinking and creating the professor-student relationship has helped me feel prepared for professional school.  Although there is still a large amount of memorization, the other larger component of veterinary medicine includes critical thinking and thinking outside of the typical parameters," Amanda says. "It was also intimidating going from a school with a class size of 35 students on the larger size to a class size of 162 students. By attending Dominican I now understand the importance of networking and having a mentor. Someone to help you get to the next step of a goal and learn through their experiences."

In the fall of 2017, Amanda entered Ohio State's College of Veterinary Medicine. She credits the advice and support she received from her Dominican mentors for helping get her there.

In August of 2019, another Dominican graduate, Julia Hills '17, will follow Amanda's footsteps into veterinary school. Julia, a Biological Sciences major, Resident Assistant, and Service-Learning program student leader, this year was accepted into the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in her hometown of Davis. Julia, like Amanda, will apply her Dominican experience to her career path.

“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 Science 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 had been passing along some valuable advice in the months leading up to Amanda’s departure to veterinary school.

“I was 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.”

In fact, at Ohio State, Amanda is working as a veterinary assistant at a 4 doctor small animal practice, Concord Chapel Animal Hospital, about a 20-minute drive from Columbus. She also has taken advantage of other opportunities to travel to other states and network through National Veterinary Conferences.

In other words, Amanda continued to heed Dr. Frye's advice and 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.”

 

April 2, 2019