Dr. Zulema Villa, D.V.M., M.S.Radiation Oncology Resident
I grew up in Delano, a small town in central California. Like most veterinarians, I had an immediate love for animals. My parents were at first reluctant in keeping pets. So naturally I befriended the neighborhood stray cats. I remember as a child collecting loose change and saving my allowances to buy cat food. Little did my parents know, I was sustaining the cat and kitten population around my home. Eventually my parents caved in and allowed me to own pets of my own.
Armed with the passion for animals I started my academic quest to become a veterinarian. I earned my bachelor’s in animal science from University of California Davis. Subsequently I was accepted into Colorado State University and earned my master’s in toxicology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
In veterinary school, I knew I wanted to specialize – but in what? During school and on breaks, I worked as an ER veterinary technician. The fast pace and unpredictability of the ER thrilled me. Yet, I also had a special interest in histopathology. I marveled at cellular organization under the microscope and was intrigued by cellular disarray that cancer created.
During veterinary school, my own cat was diagnosed with oral cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. When I received the diagnosis my mind instantly flashed to images of cellular disarray. It was no longer on a slide staged on a microscope, but trespassing into my beloved pet. I was devastated.
I consulted with oncologists at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. For the first time after I received the initial diagnosis of my cat’s cancer, I felt safe and empowered. Up against a guarded prognosis, together with the radiation oncologist we created a plan to combat my pet’s cancer. My cat received radiation therapy and surpassed clinical expectation. I am forever grateful. I knew then what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
As a student, I spent all of my clinical elective time on the oncology service. In my free time, I helped gather clinical information about radiation oncology patients. My next career goal was to return to CSU for a residency in radiation oncology. The operations of CSU’s FACC are at forefront with the integration between surgery, medicine, and radiation. Furthermore the information gained through research and successes benefits animals, as well as people.
Post graduation, I completed a small animal rotating internship in Los Angeles, California. I was overjoyed to be given the opportunity to return to CSU as a resident in radiation oncology.
When I am away from the hospital, I enjoy spending time with my husband. As much as I savor the microbreweries around Fort Collins, I am still a California girl. When the opportunities arise, I enjoy returning to California and taking a beachside walk from Santa Monica to Venice. At the end of the day I look forward to cuddling with my two ferrets named Piglette and Henry, as well as, my two cats named Milo and My Favorite (my cancer survivor).