Tackle student debt to help new veterinarians thrive.

Julian Rivera, D.V.M. '18
Julian Rivera, D.V.M. '18

Julian Rivera, D.V.M. ’18 was determined to pursue a career in wildlife or zoo medicine, no matter what the cost. While most of his time at veterinary school was dedicated to studying and training, he also worked odd jobs whenever he could to earn extra money to augment the financial support he received from Cornell. Thanks to the college’s robust scholarship program, Julian had anywhere from one-quarter to one- third of his out-of-state tuition and living expenses covered every year. “For me it was huge,” Julian says.

Yet, by his fourth year of veterinary school, Julian’s debt load was just under $200,000.

“It’s horrifyingly large,” he says.

Julian’s story isn’t uncommon. The cost of higher education is a burden for many students, but it falls heavily on those pursuing animal and human medicine. The time, expertise, facilities, equipment and resources required for a medical degree are expensive. By the time graduates take their first steps along their professional path, they carry with them an average of $160,000 in debt.

“I wanted to thank him for investing in my future by investing in someone else’s future.” 

Elizabeth von Keyserling Lynch ’90, D.V.M. ’95

Compounding the issue are the modest salaries most early-career veterinarians start out making. With too much debt and not enough income, many veterinarians carry a debilitating debt burden for decades.

These factors combine to create a crisis in the veterinary profession — but it’s not without hope.

Elizabeth von Keyserling Lynch ’90, D.V.M. ’95 knew just what it was like to have a dream of pursuing veterinary medicine. “I wanted to go to Cornell vet school since I was seven years old,” she says. Yet the cost of tuition posed a serious barrier to her dreams. Her grandfather, Richard Deems, stepped in to cover those costs. “It was such a great relief, and made all the difference,” says Lynch. Five years after she graduated, Lynch and her husband Charles Lynch ’90, decided to honor her grandfather by establishing the Richard and Jean Deems Scholarship. “I wanted to thank him for investing in my future by investing in someone else’s future.” 

Thanks to this and other funds, Julian and others like him have been able to follow their passions for veterinary medicine. Indeed, because of donors like the Lynches, the college now has over $2.5 million dollars in scholarship funds to help students manage the financial burden of veterinary school.

These funds can make countless differences in a student’s life — from enabling a career-launching externship to allowing a new graduate to buy their own practice.

For Julian, the scholarship money he’s received has allowed him to pursue his passion—he now works as an avian and exotics veterinarian at the Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Tampa, Florida.

“There is such an extreme need for scholarship funds,” says Lynch. “You can truly make the greatest impact by investing in people.”

Like Dr. Lynch, you can help people like Julian follow their dreams; consider donating to or establishing scholarship funds to help future veterinarians.