A legacy of sacrifice: How my grandparents’ immigration paved the way for me to become a veterinarian


Everyone has a story, and to understand mine, it is important to know that my story goes far beyond me. Instead, my story is a tale of those who came before me.

I am one of about 6%. Only 6% of veterinarians are of Hispanic descent.1 With disproportionately low percentages of Hispanic individuals in the veterinary field, it is important for me to embrace my heritage with pride.

In a world where dreams are often fueled by the sacrifices of those who came before us, my journey toward becoming a veterinarian was made possible by the unwavering determination and sacrifices of my grandparents. Their brave decision to leave their homeland of Cuba and start anew in the United States has laid the foundation for the life I have today.

Being the granddaughter of Cuban immigrants in America had a profound impact on my life. My grandparents fled communist Cuba in the pursuit of freedom and in search of the American dream. They did the unthinkable. Fleeing political unrest and economic instability, they left behind their homes, family, and everything that was familiar to them. They hoped the sacrifices they endured would allow their future generations to create a life and achieve successes that they could only have dreamed of.

Upon arriving in the United States, my grandparents faced numerous challenges as they sought to establish themselves in a new country. With limited resources and language barriers, they worked in factories in difficult conditions to make ends meet. What my family lacked in means they made up for in drive as they strived for their children to obtain a good education and a brighter future. Their relentless efforts and unwavering support enabled my parents to become the first college graduates in their respective families. This educational foundation and drive for knowledge paved the way for my own academic aspirations that allowed me to become a veterinarian.

Growing up hearing tales of my grandparents’ struggles and triumphs in their pursuit of a better life in America, I learned the importance of hard work and perseverance. Their stories of overcoming obstacles and embracing opportunities have instilled in me a relentless drive to go above and beyond in my veterinary practice. I am constantly inspired by the sacrifices my family made, which fuels my dedication to providing the best possible care to my patients. As a veterinarian, these values continue to guide my day-to-day life, influencing how I approach my work and connect with both animals and their pet parents.

I hope you read this article and it gives you insight into how proud I am to be one of 6% of Hispanic veterinarians and how much it means to my family. I hope you understand that my journey to becoming a veterinarian is not only about me but about my family, who worked tirelessly to create this opportunity for me. I am forever grateful for their sacrifices and will carry their legacy with me as I strive to make a positive difference in our industry and in the lives of animals. My story is one of many. I hope you understand the uphill journey that Hispanic veterinarians and their families have endured for them to achieve their dreams. I hope that my representation serves as an inspiration to future generations of Hispanic veterinarians.

Para mi familia: Gracias por tu amor, sacrificio, y apoyo. ¡Te quiero mucho!

Para leer la versión en español, haga clic aquí

Dueñas is a small animal general practitioner in sunny Miami, Florida. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology from Florida International University. She went on to attend Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine on the island of Saint Kitts, graduating in August of 2017. Dueñas then returned to the Sunshine State to attend the University of Florida, where she completed her clinical studies. Following graduation, Dueñas returned home to practice in Miami.


  1. Veterinarian demographics and statistics in the US. Zippia, Inc. Updated July 21, 2023. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://www.zippia.com/veterinarian-jobs/demographics/
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