When she was a master’s student in biochemistry, Cherice Roth worked on an important research project concerning the prostate health of Black Males.
As part of the project, she was given the task of taking care of the laboratory’s mice.
Said Roth: “My little critters were recovering well and doing great under my care, and my husband said, ‘You should think about becoming a vet.’”
So, she did.
As an African-American woman born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Texas, Roth is one of the few persons of color who is a doctor of veterinary medicine.
“It’s not your typical path for sure,” she said. “Most people know (they want to be veterinarians) from a very early age, most often from the time they are 5- or 6-years-old. I was well into my 20s before I considered that as a career path.”
Her unique experience inspired her to write two children’s books encouraging young people to understand that veterinarians are legitimate doctors and are engaging in an honorable profession.
Roth is scheduled to do the readings and signings of her books, “What’s a Real Doctor?” And “What Does a Real Doctor Look Like,” as well as “Fuzzy Pet Clinic” from 11 am to 3 pm, Aug. 27, at Barnes & Noble, 1040 N. El Camino Real, in Encinitas.
Both books were released in 2021 by Pennsylvania-based Fulton Books Inc. and are being promoted by San Diego-area publicist John Masiulionis of PR From The Heart LLC. The books can be obtained by going to www.the-real-doctor-store.myshopify.com or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites.
Referring to “What’s A Real Doctor?,” Masiulionis states in a release, “Dr. Roth’s story not only challenges the assumption that veterinarians are not ‘real’ doctors, but she also serves as a real-life example of a person of color breaking barriers in her field.”
Roth said she was surprised by the enthusiasm her books are generating.
“The reception has been amazing,” she said. “I was very much like the little girl in my head saying, ‘Nobody’s going to read these.’ But it’s actually been really incredible in that only people have been sending me photos or videos of their children reading, but I’m also not aware that it was something that was very needed.”
In “What’s a Real Doctor?” Roth portrays her sons Tristan and Cooper engaging in a dialogue with their friend Clara about who doctors are and what qualifies them to be doctors.
“Book 1 focuses on veterinarians being real doctors,” Roth said. “My two sons are explaining what I do on a daily basis and comparing that to what human doctors do on a daily basis to show that veterinarians are real doctors.”
“Book 2 (‘What Do Real Doctors Look Like?’) opens it up a bit more in that it is specifically about the ability of children to see that doctors look like all of us — that there’s not a specific stereotype of who a doctor is.
“It’s opening up that conversation of, ‘Well, I’m a little brown girl who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and became a veterinary doctor, and those sorts of things don’t happen every day. But it should. Part of the reason it doesn’t is because of this lack of representation.”
In addition to Roth’s text, the books feature vivid, on-point illustrations created by the Fulton’s artists.
“I think that for both books, they did an amazing job bringing to life the stories and pairing them with inclusive imagery,” Roth said.
The book readings, signings and clinics give Roth a chance to talk about a range of issues.
“By doing these events, No. 1, I get to talk about pet care,” Roth said. “Typically, I do a book reading and then I also hold a vet clinic. I go through the things I look for in a healthy pet and ways that the families could help to make sure their pets are doing okay, and what to do if they’re not doing okay.
“It’s kind of my way of getting out that information and direction that I wish I would have when I was younger.”
Researchers say that most of those who pursue veterinary medicine have decided from childhood that was their career path.
Yet that is not a readily apparent choice to many American children, particularly nonwhites and lower-income families.
For Roth to become the chief veterinary officer of San Francisco-based Fuzzy Pet Health is a rare achievement, especially because she grew up without knowledge of the industry.
“It wasn’t until my third year of college that I met my first veterinarian,” she said. “I had no interaction with veterinary medicine at all. I didn’t even have it in mind as a career path.”
Yet, like most children of rural, small-town America, she grew up around animals.
“I had one dog when I was growing up,” Roth said. “We either didn’t know or couldn’t afford to take her to the vet. That’s not uncommon among families of color, specifically. It’s not part of our culture. …
“I loved animals. I would actually hide little frogs and toads under my bed and take care of them. I had my own little world with these animals that allowed me to take care of them and feel needed.”
Now, while taking care of her duties at Fuzzy, Roth and her husband live on a 5-acre farm in the town of Boring, Oregon, outside of Portland.
“We have pigs and turtles and chickens and goats and dogs, a kitty, and a giant tortoise and I have two sons and a husband,” Roth said.
Sons Tristan and Cooper spurred Roth’s interest in communicating what veterinarians do to a younger generation.
“I got to see how my children’s eyes lit up when they got to see me being Dr. Mom,” Roth said. “As I started to talk to people, there is this real affinity and you get the chance to paint this piece when children are very young to have compassion for animals and to have compassion for the families that are attached to those little critters.
“I saw it as an opportunity to really start to talk about what veterinarian medicine is, No. 1, and No. 2, that it is something that is absolutely attainable as a career path.
Because of that lack of representation,. I really felt strongly that there had to be people of color in the books. There had to be people of different abilities in the books.”
“I really wished these books were around when I was little. I didn’t know that I could be a veterinarian. I had no idea that I could be an animal doctor.”