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Kevin Render
College of Veterinary Medicine

DVM Class of 2013

When Kevin Render, DVM Class of 2013, talks to children about becoming veterinarians, he tells them that for him, it all started with beauty (in addition, of course, to loving his dog).

When he was little, Render’s family subscribed to a magazine about zoo animals. He found the appearance of these exotic creatures so entrancing that he poured over each issue again and again. Later, the desire to get up close to them was kindled by a television game show for children, Zooventure. Winners became a zookeeper for one day at the San Diego Zoo. It was Render’s dream.

Finally, he shows students his biggest influence: the magical covers of Animorphs, a young adult science-fiction series by K. A. Applegate. In each tale, children use animals’ natural abilities to fight aliens.

“The graphics on the covers get you immediately,” Render says. “My favorite is the Siberian tiger, so I always show that one.”

The children love to see how a little boy slowly progresses from his human form into the body of a beautiful 600-pound male tiger.

“Then I tell them what it was like as a high school intern to work with live tigers at the Buffalo Zoo, and how that is what finally hooked me on becoming a zoo vet,” he says.

Making connections

Render, a soft-spoken man with a gentle manner, wants young people from elementary school through college to learn that veterinary medicine isn’t just about cats and dogs—or Siberian tigers. It is also about public health, pharmaceutical development, and zoonotics (diseases that animals can transmit to people).

During his first year as a veterinary student, Render discovered Veterinary Students as One in Culture and Ethnicity (VOICE), a national organization founded at Cornell in 2001 to promote multiculturalism in the field. By his second year, Render was the chapter president, and in his third year, national president.

“Veterinary medicine isn’t as diverse as many professions and doesn’t market itself to kids,” he says. It’s the reason he’s devoted so much of his time to VOICE.

“It makes the profession better when you have the mix of different ideas, different concepts, and options that come from people who grew up with many different backgrounds,” he explains.

A new passion

Meanwhile, Render’s own studies in zoo medicine and exotic species took an unexpected turn: third-year clinical rotations became a game changer for him. Before then, inexplicably, Render had been baffled by neurology—but once he saw neurological diseases in live animals at the hospital, he says “it all just clicked.” Diagnosis became like solving the logic puzzles he’d enjoyed, and excelled in, since childhood. The cases suddenly made sense, and he found them fascinating. Much to his surprise, Render’s next step is now a residency in neurology, with the goal of joining a large, urban private practice as a staff neurologist.

Regardless of where he ends up working, as a practitioner Render will continue to champion the message of VOICE. In addition to recruitment, VOICE has a mission to promote sociocultural awareness. Clients may look like they have modest financial resources, but they are willing to do whatever they can to finance their pets’ bills, Render says. Still others, who seem as if they’d spare no cost, refuse to spend $20.
“VOICE teaches that you can’t look at how a person is dressed or let other stereotypes cloud your judgment—rather, you must approach each case openly,” Render explains. “Everyone needs a fair shot.”

Looking ahead

Going into private practice does not mean leaving the zoo animals behind. One of the beauties of veterinary medicine, Render says, is that you can specialize in one area and spend your free time working in another. Zoo vets need days off, too, and Render hopes to fill in for them on those days—to get back close to his beloved tigers.

And there’s more in Render’s future. Instinct tells him that after some years of practice, he may want to return to academic life. When he was struggling with neurology, it was his experience working with Cornell professors that gave him hope. Those interactions also inspired Render to consider teaching one day. His professors made neurology seem easy, Render recalls, and they fueled a passion to master the material and helped build his confidence as a would-be practitioner. Render wants to do the same for others.

The prospect of being the same kind of teacher as those he’s known poses an exciting challenge. He knows it will require a deep knowledge base to explain a concept in various ways to help students.

“I really like interactions with people, especially when I can help someone learn something they’re having trouble with,” Render says. “When they can answer any question I toss at them, there’s joy in knowing they understand.”

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