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South Bay Student Finds Future Career Through Volunteering

Proving that sometimes your future career chooses you, Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) volunteer Julia Hyun, 20, is well on her way to becoming a veterinarian and serving the Bay Area community.

Even though Hyun loved animals and had always considered a career in the medical field, she hadn’t set her sights on veterinary medicine. In fact, she originally began volunteering at HSSV while searching for a way to meet the community service hours required for high school graduation. It was during this search, and learning about HSSV’s summer camp program through a friend, Hyun became interested in the organization.

At 14, Hyun volunteered in HSSV’s summer camp program where she supervised campers, guided their interactions with animals and taught lessons. Hyun returned the following summer to volunteer again. By her junior year in high school, Hyun became one of the first volunteers under the age of 18 to be trained as an HSSV cat socializer. In this role, she got to know the cats in HSSV’s care and took a particular interest in the less social felines.

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“I was especially drawn to working with our more behaviorally challenging cats — cats that need to learn manners when playing, cats that may be more shy and cats that just might need more mental stimulation to be their best selves, and with that came learning how to be a matchmaker for adoptable animals and their potential families,” she said.

“I liked being able to play matchmaker because that meant that I was able to further educate the public about cats,” she continued. “I enjoyed that I could break common misconceptions — cats are aloof or untrainable — and show members of the public all the wonderful cats looking for homes.”

Although still unsure of her future career path, Hyun had proven to HSSV staff she could take on more responsibility and soon became a camp supervisor. This allowed her to train new camp counselors and manage camp activities and schedules. It wasn’t long before her future became clear.

Solidifying her desire to pursue shelter veterinary medicine was the volunteer experience Hyun obtained at HSSV’s Kitten Vaccination Station. Within this role, Hyun saw the medical side of working with animals. She vaccinated and dewormed kittens, as well as served as a facilitator between kitten foster families and HSSV.

Hyun is now on her way to receiving a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Davis while serving as HSSV’s first medical intern. In this role, Hyun is provided with invaluable hands-on experience monitoring animals inside and outside of the surgery room, administering vaccinations and pulling blood for testing.

“Julia has proven to be a vital part of the HSSV medical team and family,” said HSSV’s Chief of Shelter Medicine Dr. Cristie Kamiya. “It was because of her drive, her passion, her maturity, and commitment to shelter animals that led us to invite her on as a summer intern two years ago, a position that we never had in the past, but which Julia enthusiastically accepted and helped create.

“We have had the honor and pleasure of watching Julia grow up at HSSV, and each new year brings on even more successes and accomplishments for us to be proud of,” Kamiya continued. “We look forward to seeing Julia continue to excel in her leadership and medical skills as she endeavors towards becoming an outstanding shelter veterinarian.”

Hyun will complete her bachelor’s degree in 2021 and hopes to graduate from veterinary school in 2025. Upon graduation, she plans to obtain a position as a shelter veterinarian.

“Community service is extremely important to me, as my community at HSSV has been a crucial factor in my decision to pursue shelter medicine,” she said. “One of my favorite opportunities that I am part of at HSSV are our monthly, mobile spay/neuter clinics that we offer in San Jose. Being able to know that I am part of a greater mission to save and enhance the lives of both animals and people within our community. I hope to be able to come back to HSSV and continue to volunteer in the medical center as a veterinary student, as well as once I have graduated from veterinary school.”

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