Christina Swindall

IMG_0288 When the article below was published, Christina Swindall, Gabrielino, DVM, had just graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University in the spring of 2002. Since then she has been working in a multi-doctor, small animal and exotic practice in Studio City, California.

As a little girl, Swindall brought home stray animals and injured birds. She told her mother, “I want to fix animals.” As she went through high school and college her desire to care for animals grew stronger.

To help prepare herself for veterinary school, Swindall worked in two different small animal (dog and cat) clinics, a zoo, and a research setting. The experience in the clinics gave Swindall her first real “in the hospital” introduction to veterinary medicine. “The doctors were great in nurturing my interests in the field and gave me many suggestions for getting into vet school,” she says. “Later, they wrote letters of recommendation for me.”

In the zoo, Swindall, learned the roles of the vet and the zookeepers. “You can’t just walk up to dangerous animals and examine them,” she said. “Being able to do this requires the behavioral training, which the zoo keepers have, or the use of general anesthesia. During that experience I learned of my passion for zoo medicine with its never-ending challenge of taking care of a variety of animals, from small lizards and fish to elephants and tigers.”

In the research setting, Swindall worked as a laboratory animal technician, providing daily care primarily for the breeding colonies mice. Eventually she also was able to give basic medical care to the sick or injured animals.

“Like many applicants,” she says, “it took me a few tries to get into veterinary medical school.” She applied and was accepted at Colorado State University. Since she was a California resident, she decided first to move to Colorado and get her Colorado residency so that she wouldn’t have to pay the high out-of-state tuition.

Meanwhile, she received a call saying that she had been selected by Colorado State for the special yearlong Vet Prep Program. If she successfully completed that program, she would be guaranteed admission to the veterinary medical school. She jumped at the opportunity. “We took classes in biology, chemistry, and pathology and were taught how the school operates and how to manage stress and time,” she says. “This gave us an amazing start.”

Swindall successfully completed veterinary medical school and joined an established practice in Los Angeles where she and seven other veterinarians care for small animals, such as dogs and cats, as well as exotic animals, such as reptiles, birds, fish, rodents, and amphibians.
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This article was originally published in the Autumn 2002 issue of Winds of Change. (The cover artist is Virginia Stroud, United Keetoowah Bank of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.)