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Local Woman Traveled to Oz to Become a Vet

A Jurupa Valley woman and former shelter volunteer traveled to Australia to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. Now she’s back at Riverside County Animal Services as the newest veterinarian.

Itzel Vizcarra, a 2009 J.W. North High (Riverside) graduate, finished up in the Land of Oz in late 2021, returned to the States, then plunged into the North American Veterinary Licensing examinations in November. She learned she passed the board exams in January, paving the way for her boomerang back to the very shelter where she honed her skills as a veterinary assistant.

“I have flashbacks to the first time I got to clean the surgery utensils as a volunteer,” said Vizcarra, 31. “That was fun and exciting for me and now getting to use those utensils is pretty surreal.”

In Australia, more than 7,500 miles from her childhood home, she worked examining and treating and studying some of the country’s most interesting mammals. Kangaroos? Check. Wombats? Check. Koalas? Check. She even traveled to Tasmania to work with, you guessed it, Tasmanian devils.

Vizcarra’s journey to the Land Down Under was not entirely random. Former Riverside County Animal Services Director Dr. Allan Drusys – and the county’s retired chief veterinarian – encouraged Vizcarra to pursue higher education and nudged her to experience another part of the world for life experience.

“All along, I poked and prodded and offered her assistance in finding her eventual university and the University of Sydney came in for her,” said Dr. Drusys, who served as chief veterinarian for the department from 2005 to 2020. And Dr. Drusys had a connection with the University of Sydney. He received his master’s degree in veterinary public health management from the school in 2005.

“This is another example of doing the best for the staff and creating the opportunity for staff to grow – either into another position or grow themselves outside of the department – and advance their station in life.”

Although her dream was always to return to America and work with her former colleagues, one factor certainly made her leave Australia: the spiders.

“One of the reasons I had to come back home is because the spiders are way too big,” Vizcarra said.

Contact a Shelter

Western Riverside: (951) 358-7387 (PETS)
San Jacinto: (951) 358-7387
Coachella Valley: (760) 343-3644
Blythe: (760) 921-7857
Toll Free: 1-888-636-7387 (PETS)

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