MERIDEN — Godmiel Vazquez recalls waiting, at 7 years old, with his family at the veterinarian’s office for word on the family’s beloved pet, Spot.
Spot did not make it. While Vazquez was devastated, he found comfort in knowing the veterinarian did all he could to help.
“I remember the vet being there to talk to us, he sat with us while me and my mom cried and my brothers cried,” Vazquez said. “I was thankful for that because in that instance you lose someone that is a part of your family ... to have someone come in there and try to save them, I wanted to be in that position even if I couldn't save them. I wanted to make a difference in someone's life.”
In high school, Vazquez shadowed staff at East Side Veterinary Clinic in Meriden. He met clients, watched surgeries and felt it was the right career for him.
“I grew up in a Latin household, (pets) are just extensions of our family. We don't see them as a pet, they’re your kids, your brothers, your sisters,” he said.
Vazquez studied animal science with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine at the University of Connecticut. He attended Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine on the island of St. Kitts and finished his clinical work at Tufts University.
As Vazquez studied to become a veterinarian, he shadowed staff at Meriden Animal Hospital on weekends while he worked at IHOP as a busboy. Once he received his undergraduate degree he started working at Meriden Animal Hospital as a veterinary technician. Vazquez said his experience at Meriden Animal Hospital, where he still works, taught him medicine and how to relate to clients.
“The biggest thing I appreciate from the hospital I work at now is that they took me in early and mentored me,” he said. “If I can convince one Latino, Latina, African American child to be a doctor, to do what I do, I want to do that. I want to give back to the community I was born and raised in.”
Veterinarian James St. Clair purchased Meriden Animal Hospital from his father in 2007 and has practiced since 2003. St. Clair was a mentor to Vazquez while he pursued a career as a veterinarian.
“I understood quickly the value of what having a mentor could mean in a young person's life,” St. Clair said. “The people who had strong mentors ... I saw that as such an important part in development. (Godmiel) has got to be the 10th or 12th that I've mentored ... He has a really good heart. You can hear it when he talks to the pet parents ... I think he’s got an amazing future in front of him.”
Vazquez wanted to prove that as a Latino he could follow his dream to become a veterinarian.
“If you have a child, a nephew, a daughter that wants to get into this profession, and they don’t know how to, I am here to talk to, to mentor,” he said.