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Michelle Moyal, D.V.M. '07: human-animal bond fuels veterinary passion

Michelle Moyal, D.V.M. ’07, section chief of Primary Care Surgery at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals. Photo: Cornell University Photo

Michelle Moyal, D.V.M. ’07, brings a rich perspective to her field of veterinary medicine.

Brought up in the culturally diverse borough of Queens, New York, by parents who immigrated from Casablanca, Morocco, in the 1960s, Moyal attended CUNY Queens College on a basketball scholarship.

“My mother learned English watching children’s TV shows and went on to earn her GED taking night classes. She is a huge source of inspiration and a testament to hard work,” said Moyal, who now brings those principles to her work as section chief for the Primary Care Surgery (PCS) service at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA).

Moyal’s passion for the human-animal bond brought her to the veterinary profession. “There is no other relationship like it,” Moyal said. “And I get to be a voice and an advocate for a being that can’t speak for itself.”

Upon completing her veterinary degree at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), Moyal interned at a specialty hospital in San Diego, where she stayed on as an emergency doctor. She later worked in general practice in the New York City metro area.

“When an opportunity at Cornell presented itself at the end of 2019, all I could think was I’d have the chance to keep doing what I love at an institution I was so proud to have graduated from,” she said.

As section chief of PCS, Moyal can put her expertise to work. “After 13 years of practice in both emergency medicine and primary care, I wanted to use my experience to help create great doctors,” she said.

Making great doctors is at the heart of what the PCS service does – performing basic care and surgery out of Cornell’s Small Animal Community Practice, where students are given autonomy and primary care responsibility while still under reliable supervision. “I am so excited to give them hands-on experience from a private practice perspective,” Moyal said,” and watch them make the knowledge and skills their own.”

Moyal is passionate about advancing diversity and inclusion in her field. She recalls her time as a student, walking down the long hallway of the college where the photos of every past veterinary class are displayed and noting pioneers like Florence Kimball, D.V.M. 1910, the first woman graduate, and Kirksey Curd, D.V.M. 1912, the first Black graduate.

“I’m still inspired by their accomplishments,” Moyal said, “and so proud to be a Cornell graduate alongside them.”

She currently serves as the first faculty adviser for the Cornell chapter of the Black D.V.M. Network; works on CVM’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Affairs Committee; and was named to the advisory group for the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Commission for a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Veterinary Profession.

“I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but recognize we still have a long way to go regarding representation in veterinary medicine,” Moyal said. “This motivates me every single day.”

As she coaches budding young veterinarians and strives for a diverse profession, her love for veterinary medicine fuels everything she does.

“Veterinary medicine impacts so many aspects of our daily life, public health, medical research and beyond,” she said. “I am in awe of the work that veterinary professionals do across all disciplines. My goals are to learn something new as often as possible, share the things I’ve learned with the veterinarians of the future and, overall, to leave the world a better place than I found it.”

– Lauren Cahoon Roberts

This story originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of Ezra magazine.