COMMUNITY · May 25th, 2021
Dr. Nisha Mitra: Celebrating Asian American Heritage
At NVA, we believe that engaging and amplifying different voices encourages us all to learn and thrive. In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), we asked teammates from around our community to share their personal journeys. Dr. Nisha Mitra is a veterinarian at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California.
What’s your family history/origin?
Growing up in a developing section of Calcutta, India, veterinary medicine was an unfamiliar concept that I would not cross paths with until years later. I had never imagined there was a profession dedicated to the health and well-being of animals. What I did know, or thought I knew, is that all dogs ate milk and rice, were free to roam the streets, and if they died, it was only because of old age. I truly believed those things because it was what I saw perpetuated throughout my neighborhood and in my own home with our beloved family dog named Silky. Silky was an American Eskimo who I spent most of my days with finding trouble or the next best adventure, which we learned the hard way was not always mutually exclusive. He never went a day without eating and always had a doorstep to sleep on at night. He was a vital part of our lives and shared all of our moments with us, the good and the bad.
When I was seven years old my family immigrated to the United States for a reason commonly shared amongst immigrants which is to have a higher standard of living, and better educational opportunities. A year after we moved, I had received the devastating news that Silky had passed away suddenly. Distraught by the news of his death and being only a young child myself, it didn’t dawn on me that Silky had passed away at such a young age. He was only 5 years old.
It was not until I was in high school and had rescued a border collie, named Tiger, that I realized how much longer Silky could have lived. When I took Tiger to the vet for the first time, I saw firsthand the type of care and responsibility that went into nurturing an animal. From picking out the right dog food to getting all his vaccines and to scheduling his neuter, I was completely overwhelmed but amazed at how much care can and should be provided for a dog. I couldn’t help but think if Silky had the same care in India as Tiger did here, would he still be alive today or at least lived longer than he did? That single question was the driving force behind my application to volunteer at my local vet clinic, pursue a bachelor’s degree in animal science, and apply to veterinary school.
How is being Asian part of your identity?
Being an Asian immigrant is a major part of my identity today, in both my career and personal life. It has given me the ability to appreciate why prophylactic medicine and annual wellnesses are so crucial for the health and longevity of our animals. Through this profession, I’ve been able to connect with pet owners from different backgrounds, both ethnic and socioeconomic. Even though some may not understand why we perform diagnostics or be able to afford their pets’ medications, that does not undermine the love they have for their animal. It has been an honor and a true privilege to help educate pet owners on animal care; things I wish I had known with Silky back in India.
What’s your favorite part about working at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital?
I’m fortunate to be working in this field at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital. My favorite part of my job is the diversity of cases. I go into the hospital every morning and have no idea what I will be treating that day. A case could be as simple as a new Frenchie puppy for vaccines or something more severe like a rabbit in gastrointestinal stasis secondary to a liver lobe torsion. I love working in this fast-paced environment where I’m able to practice high-quality medicine. What has made my experience all the better is being able to work with doctors who come from different backgrounds. Together we are able to ideate and leverage each other’s experiences to come to a solution that’s best for our patients. The support system throughout the entire hospital from vet techs, hall techs, receptionists, and boarding facility is remarkable. It truly takes a village to provide optimal care not only for our animals but for one another.
I can’t say that being an Asian immigrant today has been easy, there are hardships and challenges that go beyond the scope of veterinary medicine. But I can say that there is not a moment that goes by that I don’t appreciate and value my experiences as an Asian immigrant. It has humbled me and given me a purpose to rally behind, which is to care for others who are disadvantaged or simply need help. I’m proud to be a part of the AAPI community and even more proud to be a part of the 5.2% who are veterinarians. Many women in India don’t even get the opportunity to finish secondary school let alone dream about higher education or a profession.
What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
AAPI Heritage Month is important to me because it creates a space for us as a society to recognize and honor those within the community who have made sacrifices in order to have a seat at the table. It’s important for everyone to pay tribute to generations of Asian Americans who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.