Victor Lopez wanted to become one thing in his life – a veterinarian. Born to immigrant parents with little money or education, going to school while working full-time and numerous rejections from veterinary colleges, the odds were stacked against Victor.
But on June 1, 2020, he accomplished his goal.
Lopez, 33, was raised in Luling in central Texas on his parent’s small ranch. One night, when Lopez was about 10, he and his father took a sick calf to the veterinarian to save its life. “This was something I never experienced before and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Lopez said. He began to spend his childhood caring for his family’s livestock and realized, “Families like mine may not like going to the veterinarian because of a language barrier. I hope to change that,” Lopez said.
A chance encounter while Lopez was working at a sandwich shop located at a truck stop during his senior year in high school would become a pivotal point in his life. A customer, veterinarian Dr. John Davidson struck up a friendly conversation with Lopez about his life. When Lopez shared his goal, Davidson explained that he and his business partner, Dr. Steven Golla, of Chisholm Trail Veterinary Clinic, were opening a new animal hospital. “He was professional, detail-oriented and you could tell that he was just different,” said Golla.
Lopez was quickly hired as a technician assistant in Golla’s veterinary practice.
After graduating high school in 2005, Lopez earned his associate’s degree in veterinary technology from Palo Alto College in San Antonio and later a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas State University in San Marcos, all the while working full-time at the vet clinic and on his parents’ ranch.
He becomes the first of his more than 50-member family to obtain an undergraduate degree.
During his junior year at Texas State, Lopez applied to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and was rejected – not once, but twice.
Undeterred, Lopez enrolled in a master’s degree program at Texas A&M University, Kingsville while continuing to work full-time. He applied to veterinary school for the third time and again, was denied admission.
By 2015, Lopez graduated with a master’s degree in animal science, another first for his family. “It was hard for my parents to comprehend what I was doing because they only had an elementary school education,” Lopez said. “Every time I graduated with a degree, they’d ask me, ‘Are you a doctor yet?’ and I’d have to say, ‘No not yet.’”
Later that same year, Lopez applied to veterinary school outside his home state and was finally accepted by Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama for the class of 2020.
On May 1, 2020, Lopez graduated from Tuskegee with a “virtual” graduation ceremony with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.
He is now the first doctor in his family. “My parents came to this country with nothing and they were looking for the American dream and I made it happen for them,” Lopez said. “I am able to finally tell my parents I am a doctor now!”
“You meet people who are born to do things. And this is what he was born to do, to be a veterinarian,” Golla said. “If there was ever a sure thing, it was him.”
Lopez joins Dr. Garrett Montgomery at Chisholm Trail Veterinary Clinic as an associate veterinarian, a long way from his first job at the clinic more than 15 years ago.
Lopez wants to be a role model for his community. “There are kids from the same situation as I was who come into the clinic and want to follow the same path,” he said. “Now they can see first-hand that the American dream is not impossible.”