Growing up in Alhambra, Paige Hashimoto-Lizardo loved animals and becoming a veterinarian was the only profession she dreamed about.
She fulfilled that dream in a journey that took her through Cal Poly Pomona’s animal science program, veterinary school, and then to co-owning an animal hospital in Huntington Beach.
Now, her daughter, Marissa, is following her, enrolling in Cal Poly Pomona this fall.
“I was a proud mama bear,” said Lizardo (’94, animal science), recalling when Marissa made her college decision. “I was proud to know that she would follow in my footsteps.”
Marissa Lizardo, who graduated from Fountain Valley High School last spring and wants to become a veterinarian too, was accepted to four other Cal State University campuses in biology. But Cal Poly Pomona was close to home and had a pre-vet program.
“Once I got into Cal Poly Pomona, it was set in stone. I knew I was going there,” Marissa said.
Different Animal Experience
As a child, Paige Lizardo had cats, dogs, lizards, and crawfish as pets and took care of hamsters in her school classroom. So she definitely had experience with small animals.
But when she arrived at Cal Poly Pomona, she discovered that other animal science students had very different experiences.
“A lot were farm raised. They came to class with hats and boots,” Paige Lizardo recalled. “They did work at the horse unit or were raised with large animals.”
Although she wanted to work as a small animal veterinarian, Lizardo knew that she needed to broaden her experience. She spent three years volunteering at the L.A. Zoo, working with the primates, and then working at an emergency vet clinic.
“This was all just for me to put on my application for vet school to show I did have a wide range of experience with a lot of different animals,” Lizardo said.
Going to Vet School
After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Lizardo enrolled in a special summer enrichment program at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama.
The program was designed for prospective students who were on the borderline of being considered for admission to Tuskegee’s veterinary school. The enrichment program covered the students’ room and board and even gave them a stipend.
“If you get through the program, and if you did well, and if they had an opening, you could come in the fall,” she said.
In the program, participants took all the first-year veterinary school classes, met all the teachers, visited all the classrooms, and learned the terminology. So when Lizardo was accepted into the veterinary school, she had a leg up on the other incoming students.
Her Cal Poly Pomona education and experience – with the large-animal classes and hands-on learning experiences – also helped.
“Most veterinary school students come from a biology program. They haven’t touched an animal,” she said. “Having those classes there was a plus.”
Lizardo not only finished with a degree in veterinary medicine, she also met her future husband, Eric, there.
The two wound up in Southern California after veterinary school, serving internships at the same 24-hour veterinary medicine referral center in Orange County before purchasing the Beach Boulevard Pet Hospital in Huntington Beach in 2004.
Growing up as the child of two veterinarians, Marissa Lizardo was always around animals. The family took in cats and dogs, and the pets watched over her.
“I wanted to keep them around as long as possible,” Marissa recalled. “What’s the best way to do that? Taking care of them.”
Marissa also has worked at her family’s pet hospital, answering phones, making appointments and prepping for them, changing and cleaning animal cages, and walking dogs.
Because of COVID-19, pet owners can’t come into the hospital, so Marissa goes out to the curbside to pick up or return their pets or deliver medications.
The Next Generation
Marissa doesn’t have very many expectations about attending Cal Poly Pomona yet because it hasn’t fully sunk in that she was admitted. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, will limit her experience to remote instruction for now.
“I am a little disappointed that I can’t go in person,” she said.
As to her career aspirations in the veterinary field, Marissa’s interests have changed over time.
She went through a phase where she was really interested in horses. Then there was a phase she was interested in marine life. Both times, she returned to her original plan to become a small animal veterinarian.
Currently, she’s exploring becoming a zoo veterinarian.
“I want to work with big cats, like tigers,” Marissa said. “I haven’t wanted to go back to being a domestic (pet) veterinarian yet. We’ll see.”