From puppy raiser to veterinarian
A life-long dream becomes real for Maria Quiroz when she graduates this spring
Maria Quiroz has known since third grade that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She was the one always taking care of Sugar, the family’s cat, along with assorted pets. She grew up marveling at the strength of the human-animal bond.
Her educational path crystallized in 2001, after she began training Ulysses, a yellow Labrador pup, for the Guide Dogs for the Blind program.
“I’ve always been a shy person, but Ulysses encouraged me to be more outgoing. When you walk down the road with a guide dog puppy, people have questions,” Quiroz says. “He really helped me realize again my love for animals and that I wanted to go to veterinary school.”
Her path may have been clear, but it wasn’t easy. Acceptance into veterinary school is widely regarded as just as competitive as medical school, and total cost of attendance at an in-state school tops $40,000 per year including tuition, room and board, books and supplies.
She had the desire, and a role model: her sister, Keela, the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Quiroz started college at Oregon State University in 2006, aided by the Scholarship Program for Sons and Daughters of Employees of Roseburg Forest Products Co. The program serves dependents (21 years of age or younger) of employees of RFP and offers $5,000 per academic year if the recipient is enrolled in a four-year college or program ($3,000 if enrolled in a two-year college or program).
Roseburg Forest Products: A ‘family business’
Roseburg Forest Products is sort of the family business: Quiroz’s father, Robert Quiroz, is a 32-year employee; her uncles were employees, too, and her grandfather retired from there. “My sister and I were the first ones to go to college in our family,” she says, “and probably the biggest help was the Sons and Daughters scholarship, which we both got. It took care of such a big chunk. College is not cheap.”
Her sister, who graduated from Oregon Institute of Technology in 2008, became a dental hygienist. Quiroz earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a minor in chemistry in 2010, and was an alternate candidate for a year before embarking on her four-year education at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
During her interim year, she took microbiology classes and continued to work at Willamette Veterinary Hospital, a job she started during her undergraduate years. “I am very grateful to have had that opportunity,” Quiroz says. “They hired me with no experience and I worked my way up from cleaning kennels to nursing and hospitalized patient care. I did it not only for financial reasons, but it also helped me keep veterinary school in perspective.”
Quiroz, who will graduate this spring, recently passed her national boards. “My plan is to become a general practitioner in a small animal practice, hopefully in Oregon,” Quiroz says. “Mom and Dad are still in Roseburg, and my sister and her family are in Medford.”
Strong family support
Her family has strongly supported Quiroz’s educational endeavors. “The college experience was foreign to my family, but my sister paved the way for me, and once my parents got into the college mindset, they were very supportive.”
And Ulysses, the yellow Lab, was a big support as well. After he was withdrawn from the Guide Dogs program for health issues, Quiroz’s family took him back as a pet. She visited Ulysses on breaks from school. When he became sick with lymphoma at 8 years old, she took care of him at the veterinary hospital where she worked, assisting in his surgery and helping with supportive care at the end.
“It was another experience Ulysses helped me through, another teaching opportunity,” Quiroz says reflectively. “I think about him often; he made a lasting impression on my life.”