Roger Ramirez-Barrios named Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s Mentor of the Year
February 22, 2023
Roger Ramirez-Barrios has been named the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s Mentor of the Year for 2023. The award has been offered since 2006 to recognize excellence in mentorship.
"This is amazing for me. I don't have any words to describe my happiness with this award,” said Ramirez-Barrios, clinical associate professor of veterinary parasitology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
Ramirez-Barrios makes students a priority and sees mentorship as part of his job, not an extra obligation.
"For me, being a professor is not standing in front of a classroom repeating what the slide says — it's more than that,” Ramirez-Barrios said. “Every time that I enter a classroom and I see all the students, I don't just see students who need to learn. I see faces, I see human beings, and I know that behind those faces are dreams, goals, fears, insecurities."
Empathy is at the core of Ramirez-Barrios’s mentorship philosophy. He makes it a point to be upfront with students about his own insecurities and imperfections, and in showing his humanity, he’s able to connect with students.
In class, he emphasizes an open-door policy: anyone can come to him for guidance or to talk about their concerns. Mentorship is not about constant praise — mentees need honesty to grow as students and people — but students need support to succeed.
He understands that students struggle with challenges like impostor syndrome – feelings of self-doubt despite education, ability, and accomplishments – and he’s there to provide a listening ear.
"Certainly, I won't have all the tools they will need to succeed. But most of the time, they just need someone to listen without judgment,” he said.
"I want them to succeed in life. It's not that we are educating veterinarians, we are educating human beings — what's the point of being a good veterinarian but a jerk? That's not what I want. I want them to be very good human beings and excellent veterinarians as well. That's why I have to make time for them."
What’s one easy step to building a positive relationship with students? Just say hello! Ramirez-Barrios greets his students when he sees them on campus, and that simple gesture can brighten their day, making them feel seen and respected.
In addition to teaching veterinary students, Ramirez-Barrios teaches an introductory parasitology course to undergraduate students. He assists all of his students as they look to their future careers, helping them explore career options and giving them the tools they need to further their education.
He gives his undergraduate students the opportunity to get research experience that will help them get into the veterinary school, medical school, or Ph.D. programs they want, and he is always ready to write a letter of recommendation.
Being a mentor and role model is a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure, but mentoring students is important to Ramirez-Barrios.
"I don't want them to only succeed in vet school or in undergrad,” Ramirez-Barrios said. “I want them to succeed in life. It's not that we are educating veterinarians, we are educating human beings — what's the point of being a good veterinarian but a jerk? That's not what I want. I want them to be very good human beings and excellent veterinarians as well. That's why I have to make time for them."
This year, Ramirez-Barrios has joined several other veterinary college faculty and alumni who have also won Mentor of the Year, most recently Anne Bazilwich (DVM ‘97) and Jonathan Stotler (DVM ‘09).