How opera singing led me to vet med

During her first summer after undergrad, Julia Miller worked for a large animal veterinarian in upstate New York, and that’s where the want to be an opera singer pivoted to something else: vet med.

By Connor Dunwoodie

Growing up, Julia Miller, DVM, DACVD, wanted to be a chef, a shark doctor, and everything in between. 

Watching her dad, a veterinary dermatologist, she loved animals but ultimately decided to pursue a degree in vocal performance and opera singing. Her passion for singing took her to Indiana University, 

“I really enjoyed singing. I always have, but when I was in school, singing became my job,” she said. “It was something I had to do, and that made it lose a little bit of its luster.” 

During her first summer after undergrad, she worked for a large animal veterinarian in upstate New York, and that’s where the want to be an opera singer pivoted to something else: vet med. 

“The apple tried to fall far from the tree, but as it turns out, that tree has a gravitational pull that I was unaware of,” said Miller. “I kind of morphed my undergrad degree and stuck with music. And then added biology.” 

The course hours every semester were no joke, and she took a gap year before heading to Cornell for vet school. Her goal? Become an equine podiatrist. 

When she graduated in 2012, she went on to do a large animal internship at the University of Georgia, and when it came time to decide whether to go into general practice or pick residency and specialize, she chose to go out and practice. 

“The job market back in 2013 wasn’t what it is today. So, I actually ended up getting a mixed animal job and slowly but surely found myself loving the small animal side of things,” Miller said. 

Working with Shih Tzu’s helped seal the deal, she joked. “I think that those little turds have kind of turned me.” 

She spent roughly three and a half years in a mixed animal general practice, where her focus changed from large animal to small animal, and even more specifically, small animal dermatology. 

“I found that I really loved dermatology as much as I tried to not love it,” she said. “I ended up making my way back to Cornell for my residency. Did that, and then I stayed on as faculty for a couple of years before private practice.” 

Miller now practices dermatology in Louisville, KY, where you can still see her occasionally flaunt her vocal performance background on karaoke night.  

What’s her go-to song these days? 

“ ‘Oh Darling,’ by The Beatles,” she said. 


Connor Dunwoodie is AAHA’s Senior Content Manager.    

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.   



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