Growing up, people tried to discourage Carla Gutierrez ’16 from becoming a veterinarian, telling her that it was too hard. Now a member of the DVM class of 2025, she’s proving her naysayers wrong.  

“It was kind of a spite thing at first,” she laughed. “Like, ‘You said I can’t — watch me do it!’ And then when I came here, I fell in love with working with livestock. It really excites me that vets can affect the food supply, public health, biosecurity, and an environmental impact. I've always been passionate about helping people — so being able to help farmers' livelihoods and the food supply, it's very exciting.”

Gutierrez is on the food animal track with an interest in swine medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, where she was an animal and poultry sciences major with an emphasis in livestock. 

Throughout her education, her mother has encouraged her to apply for scholarships, and Gutierrez has been awarded multiple scholarships. 

"Scholarships helped me graduate undergrad with less debt, so when I started in a professional program that is famously debt-inducing, I started at a place that's a little less scary," Gutierrez said.

In addition to helping with day-to-day expenses, scholarships have opened the doors to more opportunities and allowed her to focus on her interests. 

For example, Gutierrez was able to travel to Illinois for her summer clinics. As a veterinary student interested in pigs, opportunities for studying can be limited by geography. 

“We don't have a strong pig presence in Virginia, so I wouldn't be able to have that experience here — Virginia Tech and VMCVM have a lot of opportunities, but if the animals aren't here, they can't really create that opportunity,” she said. “Being able to go to other places that have the animals and the programs in place is really great.”

Thanks to scholarship money, Gutierrez was able to complete her clinics on the border of Iowa, the nation’s leading pork producer.

For Gutierrez, veterinary medicine is about more than just animals — it’s also about the people. She recognizes that network, mentorship, and support are crucial elements of the field, and she’s involved in several organizations. In addition to her role as SAVMA class representative, Gutierrez has served as chapter president of PrideSVMC, vice president of Therio Club, and swine chair of Food Animal Practitioners Club.

Gutierrez sees scholarships as a way to give back and to advocate for the field.

"Something I think is special about scholarships is that sometimes they are targeted towards people who are passionate about a certain thing. I think it's a very powerful tool to be able to say that, for example, ‘It's important that there are more livestock vets.’ It's both helping a student and also sending a message on something you're passionate about.”

After graduation, Gutierrez plans to enter large animal practice, focusing on swine and beef, hopefully somewhere with mountains like those near Blacksburg. Always connected to her community, she also plans on giving back. 

"It's so hard to get here. Why not turn around and make it easier for the next person?"

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing