2010-08-26 / Front Page
Local grad student hopes to help the animal kingdom
Ravee Padte is overcoming obstacles to become a veterinarian
As a student working toward a degree in veterinary science, being a male puts him in the minority, and he is a minority of Indian descent.
“As an applicant, I am a minority of a minority,” he said.
Plus, when he was growing up, he never owned a pet or visited a veterinarian’s office. He didn’t have any real experience with animals until college.
Yet Padte decided that his interest lies in animal science, so he worked diligently and determinedly to turn those disadvantages into advantages for himself.
He graduated from South Brunswick High School in 2004, and he earned a degree in animal science with a minor in psychology, cum laude, from Rutgers University in 2008.
During college, he worked at the Princeton Animal Hospital as a veterinary assistant and interned at the Philadelphia Zoo as an educator.
Because of his hard work and dedication, he was accepted to five of the 13 veterinary schools he applied to: the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, Ohio State, North Carolina State, and the school he eventually chose to attend, Cornell.
He was selected as one of 222 veterinary students from across the country to receive a 2010 Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Scholarship.
He is also one of 23 veterinary students from around the world who participated in the Cornell Summer Research and Leadership Program this summer. His project was based on research about the behavioral studies of aggressive and tame foxes.
Now set to graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 2012, the Kendall Park resident is proving that those who remain focused on their dreams can achieve whatever they want.
“Having worked in an animal hospital was huge. Vet schools require you to have a lot of experience in different areas. They want to know you understand the challenges of the field and know you understand the work,” he said.
As a second-year vet student, Padte said he has learned to be well rounded, since admissions boards look for students who are versatile.
In high school he was in the marching band, jazz band and wind ensemble, ran track and volunteered at the Buckingham Place Assisted Living center.
At Cook College at Rutgers, he was part of the Cook Council governing body as a representative for commuters, and played intramural basketball.
At Cornell he continues with basketball, participated in the theater group’s performance of “Brigadoon,” has organized movie marathons for fellow students, and is the representative of his class to Cornell’s Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Vet schools, or any type of graduate schools, want to see you’re well rounded. They don’t just want you to have your head in the books,” he said. “By getting involved, you also get to know the faculty and staff outside of a lecture hall.”
However, grades are important, and the course load is intense, Padte said. His classes have included anatomy, comparative labs of different species, case-based learning, viruses and bacteria, immunology, endocrinology, biochemistry and physiology.
“Grades are one of the major things. You definitely have to be able to keep a 3.5 [grade point average],” the former Edison resident said.
To enhance his own understanding of animals, Padte finally decided he needed to have a pet. He adopted his domestic shorthair, Boka, which means “male cat” in his native language of Marathi, during an adoption day that the Feline Rescue Mission of South Brunswick was holding at the local PetSmart the Saturday after he came home from his first year of vet school.
“My parents never had a cat. I think Indians in general have a thing with cats being a stray animal all over the streets and dirty. … My dad didn’t even think you could develop a relationship with a cat like you do with a dog,” he said.
He said the close relationship with a pet is often misunderstood by those who do not own any animals, which is why his involvement with a pet loss hotline at Cornell is so important.
“Our society has tools for grieving the loss of a person … but not everyone has a pet, or not everyone understands the human-animal bond.”
This relates directly to the communication skills needed by any kind of doctor, since they must deal with colleagues, research scientists and/or clients.
“You get to help both animals and people through one career,” he said of the veterinary field. “I love people, and I want to help people who love their animals.”
As a side note, there is no veterinary school in New Jersey, which Padte said is unfortunate because veterinary schools are expensive to begin with, are not close by, and New Jersey residents must pay out-ofstate tuition.
He said that because New Jersey doesn’t have a veterinary college, the state established the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Education Contract Program in 1971 through which the state paid several vet schools to reserve a certain number of seats in each year‘s class for New Jersey residents. However, state budget cuts in 2007 resulted in the loss of most of those seats.
“When I applied to vet schools in 2008, only three or four schools still held contract seats for New Jersey students,” he said.
Every veterinary student takes the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, which is a requirement for licensure to practice veterinary medicine in all licensed jurisdictions in North America, during their fourth year of school. After passing that exam, Padte would receive a license from the state of New Jersey to practice.
Though he dreamed of being a whale trainer ever since watching the movie “Free Willy,” Padte has not decided where his career will lead.
Possible fields with veterinary science include production animal veterinarians, who focus on farm animals; wildlife studies; zoology; pharmaceutical research to protect animals used for scientific testing; specialized fields such as oncology, radiology, cardiology, dermatology or psychiatry; animal-assisted therapy; service animals; rescue animals; the prospect of bioterrorism through the food supply; working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on emerging diseases; or going to other countries to study their animal populations.
“Being open-minded and being optimistic is huge. And you need a support system of family and friends,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Amato at