Dr. Stephanie Kuo is a recent veterinary graduate of St. George’s University who completed her clinical year at Cornell University. She is a Taiwanese-American who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After earning her undergraduate degree in Molecular Environmental Biology at UC Berkeley, Stephanie gained most of her veterinary and animal experience by volunteering at animal shelters, working with giraffes at the Oakland Zoo, and working as a veterinary assistant at various small animal practices. Some of her veterinary interests include emergency, surgery, and internal medicine. She also has a strong passion for traveling and live music. Stephanie is so excited to be joining Veterinary Emergency Group as an emergency veterinarian soon.
Q: What motivated you to become one of the founders of the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals?
A: Throughout my entire pre-vet life, I had always been aware that there were very few people who looked like me in my field. I felt very isolated during my journey to vet school, with no real role models to look up to or help guide me. Being an Asian American also came with additional cultural pressures to pursue a career that was more “financially stable,” such as business or engineering. I have even had family members ask me why I didn’t just become a human physician instead. The lack of diversity in vet school was also not lost on me. I quickly realized the importance of the bond I had with my other Asian classmates and the value in being each other’s support systems as we dealt with similar struggles.
When I started to incorporate documenting my journey through vet school on my social media, a huge motivator that helped me to push through was receiving messages from people who said they were inspired by seeing someone who looks like them pursuing veterinary medicine, or that they wish they had been brave enough to go to vet school. This showed me that representation matters, and it can make a huge difference knowing that people have gone through the same experiences, and that you’re not going it alone. I am so grateful that I was able to connect with my co-founder, Hira Basit, through social media and that we started AAVMP together.
Q: What are the core values of the AAVMP?
A: The four core values of AAVMP are representation, mentorship, advocacy, and fellowship. Through representation, we strive to increase the visibility of Asian professionals in the field and encourage equal representation of Asians in leadership positions. Through mentorship, we hope to foster success for pre-veterinary and veterinary professionals by offering support and guidance. Through advocacy, we want to advocate for the needs of our members in the profession, educate others about minority struggles, and emphasize the value of diversity in a community. Through fellowship, we hope to unite and support the Asian veterinary community and demonstrate our allyship alongside other affinity organizations.
Q: How do you think the AAVMP can help or impact future Asian Veterinarians in the United States?
A: Through our core values, I truly believe that we will create a strong community for Asian veterinary professionals where we can uplift and support each other. In turn, this will help to inspire future generations to pursue veterinary medicine and show them that if we can make it, they can too. It is important that kids know they are needed in this profession and that they deserve to be here, no matter what society or cultural pressures tell them. By working with other affinity organizations, we hope to continue to promote diversity in our field in order to create a future where minority students don’t have to deal with racial microaggressions or feel isolated in their journey.
Q: Last, why are you proud of becoming an Asian-American Veterinarian?
A: I am proud to be an Asian-American veterinarian because Asians make up only 1% of the student body in US veterinary schools. I am helping to break the mold of what careers Asians are expected to go into, and proving that we do belong in this field. I know that my presence, along with that of other minorities in the field, is needed to help create a profession that truly reflects the communities that we serve. To this day, I am continuously reminded of the power of multilingualism, especially in a field that depends so much on client communication. When you are able to speak a client’s native language, it really helps to take away that disconnect and help us to build a sense of trust and effectively advocate for your patients. I will continue to use my voice to increase awareness about the importance of representation and diversity in veterinary medicine.
Read more by Maria Estefania.