First-year veterinary student Vazul Munjal. Submitted photo.

Volunteer work near and dear to B.C. student’s heart

As a boy, Vazul Munjal remembers listening to his veterinarian father describe interesting cases brought to his practice, Alta Vista Animal Hospital, in Vancouver, B.C.

By Lynne Gunville

“Whenever I asked him about some of the cases he had, he’d explain them to me in the simplest way possible,” says Munjal, a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). “Once I got a little older, he started taking me to the clinic with him, and he showed me some of the things he did as a veterinarian.”

Although Munjal was fascinated by animals and his father’s work, he was uncertain about his future in the profession. He decided to explore other career options by enrolling in a diverse range of courses at the University of British Columbia (UBC). But after exploring various fields, he realized that he enjoyed working with animals and animal biology — the ideal segue to veterinary medicine.

Once he’d confirmed his career goal, Munjal worked hard to maintain high grades and add to his veterinary experience. He also continued his involvement with Vancouver youth — since high school he'd volunteered and worked as a youth program instructor at Vancouver’s Sunset Community Centre.

It’s a cause that’s near and dear to Munjal who recalls being a shy, introverted child until his mom signed him up for programs at their local community centre. As the centre’s volunteers and staff became role models to him, they played a large role in his childhood development.

After Munjal had spent several years teaching various sports and educational programs at Sunset Community Centre, he was hired by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. As a youth worker for the entire city, he was responsible for promoting a safe and enjoyable environment for youth in Vancouver’s various community parks and community centres.

While taking a full course load at UBC, Munjal also began working with Ennovate, a subproject of Enactus UBC. Enactus is a worldwide non-profit organization that’s focused on applying social entrepreneurial thought and action toward improving the world.

Ennovate is an entrepreneurship education project that focuses on empowering high school students through interactive workshops — teaching skills such as product development, marketing and personal budgeting.

“I really enjoyed interacting with high school students and giving them a chance to escape from their routine classwork and put their creativity to use,” says Munjal. “It was honestly surprising to see how passionate students became about their projects. Many classes even continued producing and selling their products after the project ended. This just went to show how impactful Ennovate really was, and I was proud to be part of it.”

While working as an Ennovate project associate, Munjal spearheaded workshops similar to those he’d attended as a high school student. He later worked as a mentorship associate, helping to create webinars aimed at preparing high school students for university.  

Despite his full slate of activities, Munjal also worked at his father’s clinic and volunteered at the Vancouver Orphaned Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA).

“I worked with the founders of VOKRA, who are some of the most hard working and inspirational people I’ve ever met,” says Munjal. “Watching them work tirelessly to rehome and socialize orphaned cats to help reduce the stray cat population in Vancouver has really inspired me to aim to do the same once I become a vet.”

Munjal’s busy schedule as a UBC student, part-time employee and volunteer has undoubtedly prepared him for any challenges he will encounter now at the WCVM. In addition to enjoying his first-year classes such as immunology, form and function and veterinary business, he likes the experience of living in a new city and meeting new people, and he’s looking forward to his first Saskatoon winter.

Although Munjal had always thought he’d return to Vancouver to operate his own small animal practice after graduation, his perspective has changed since he’s become more aware of the diverse career options that the profession offers.

“You never know what might interest you until you try it,” says Munjal. “Of course, my interest in small animal medicine will always remain, but I do not want to shut down any other potential careers in veterinary medicine until I learn more about them and give them all a proper chance.”

When Munjal received his letter of acceptance from the WCVM in June 2021, he knew he had the perfect birthday present for his father — his most influential mentor. Munjal hid the good news from both of his parents until 12 a.m. on his dad’s birthday.

“Once he opened the envelope and saw my acceptance letter inside, both of my parents became super cheerful and hugged each other,” recalls Munjal. “It was the happiest I had seen them in a long time!”