Raju Naik, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition) (he/him)
What inspired you to become a Board-certified veterinary specialist?
We were lucky to have three nutrition courses in our curriculum, starting in our first year of vet school. Clinical nutrition clicked with me and we had three fantastic nutritionists that helped foster my passion.
Are there any resources or pieces of advice that helped you along the way?
I would not have had the opportunities I did without networking. Go to conferences, shadow clinicians, meet as many people in your field as you can, and follow up. Don’t be nervous – we all got into veterinary medicine to help.
Is there a story or experience that stands out in your mind that reaffirmed your decision to work in specialty veterinary medicine?
I spent a year shadowing veterinarians, physicians, and chefs before deciding to continue down the path of veterinary medicine. I realized that even if I had decided to pursue human nutrition, physicians can’t specialize in clinical nutrition! I wanted to combine my medical knowledge with my passion for nutrition, so specializing in veterinary clinical nutrition was a great fit for me.
What is something you wish the general public knew about veterinary specialists?
That we exist! Many clients are surprised to learn that not only are there veterinary clinical nutritionists, cardiologists, and internists, but that we all pursued many years of advanced training to enable us to help their pet with specific conditions.
How is specialty veterinary medicine paving the way for advances in veterinary science?
I am privileged to interact with leading researchers at my company, in academia, and in private practice every day. Most of these individuals are specialists studying novel ways to nutritionally manage conditions we couldn’t fathom addressing with food ten or fifteen years ago.
When it comes to increasing diversity in veterinary specialty medicine, what kind of resources or changes would you like to see from the ACVIM and/or similar organizations? To phrase it another way, how can the ACVIM better support its diverse members?
I believe improving accessibility and increasing representation are two of the most important strategies that can drive diversification of our field. It currently requires a certain amount of privilege to not only pursue veterinary medicine, but to take on the potential financial challenges associated with and internship and residency. I think we owe it to future generations to decrease those barriers. I also think we should spark an interest in vet med early on in a student’s career. I have enjoyed working with elementary through high school STEM programs to show that someone who doesn’t fit the typical mold can pursue a fulfilling career in specialty veterinary medicine.
What impact has the ACVIM had in shaping your career?
I am so grateful that our specialty was recently integrated into the ACVIM. In the short time we have been a part of the “club,” it has been clear that there is tremendous growth potential for our specialty stoked by support from our colleagues. I am looking forward to the collaborative opportunities we have ahead of us!
Read more of Dr. Naik's interview in his feature on the ACVIM Career Center >>