Cherice Roth: A Veterinarian of Influence

Entrepreneur magazine’s Woman of Influence talks telehealth, access, representation and more

By Kristen Green Seymour

Telehealth, Access, Representation, and More

When Cherice Roth, DVM, learned she’d made Entrepreneur magazine’s 100 Women of Influence list alongside Jennifer Lopez and Oscar-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay, she was honored—and completely blown away. “I was like, why would a veterinarian end up on there?” she laughs.

The answer lies in the way Entrepreneur defined “influential.” They highlighted individuals influencing the industries that shape our lives, for women influencing our equity and access to resources. Given those specifications, it’s little wonder Roth, a tech lover who’s been on the cutting edge of telehealth and a voice in the push for representation in veterinary medicine for years, was featured.

As a finalist, Roth told the magazine about her background, her philosophy of veterinary medicine, and her hopes for the industry’s future. “Of course, they chose the paragraph about my dog dying,” she says, referring to her childhood dog, Ebony, who passed away in their backyard—not because she was unloved or because her family wasn’t planning to take her to the vet, but because they were trying to get her to the weekend. “My parents were hourly workers; I was a first-generation college student,” she says. “Paid time off was something you used to go pick up your kid when they’re sick. We just didn’t know what we didn’t know, and that’s exactly the case for these families we’re all trying to serve.”

Today, Roth knows plenty—and that’s because she asks questions. She asks questions of other doctors, clients, and the industry. That’s how she learned, upon entering veterinary medicine, that her family’s experience wasn’t unique. “I realized that it happens all the time,” she says, “and that there was something we could do about it.”

Increasing Access

Ebony’s story might not have been Roth’s top choice for the Entrepreneur article, but it’s certainly relatable. And when she first began practicing in New Mexico in 2013, that relatability made it a little easier for her to ask clients about what kept them from seeking care for their pets in situations where an issue had been progressing. “Sharing my story let them know that I get it, I’ve been there,” she says. The exact circumstances may have been different, but, “The bones of the story—not being able to get access to veterinary care, or not even knowing it’s needed—came through crystal clear.”

She carried those stories with her as she built her reputation in Albuquerque and as she honed her orthopedic surgery skills and performed surgeries at various hospitals in the area, increasing access for pet owners who couldn’t get to a specialist was top of mind. “[My surgeries] were lower cost because I wasn’t a board-certified veterinarian or specialist, but I knew what I was doing and practiced high quality medicine and surgery,” she says. However, follow-up care was a challenge because her patients weren’t solely at her main practice.

That’s where her love of technology came into play.

To keep tabs on these patients, Roth made herself directly available to owners via phone, text, and FaceTime. “I’d say, ‘Send me a video of Fifi walking after her hip surgery so I can make sure everything is going to plan,’” she recalls. When the results were as expected, she’d tell owners to keep doing what they’re doing. But if the pet did need to come in, she could reassure them that it was important enough to warrant the time off work.

It didn’t take long to realize she was onto something.

“These people were happy; they were appreciative,” she says. Her customer satisfaction score was high because she’d made herself more accessible, although she stresses that, as a new mom, she was not always available. Clients appreciated the virtual access she provided during working hours, and their pets received excellent care. Everything was going beautifully.

And Roth was just getting started.

Taking Charge and Making Change

In 2017, Roth joined a company doing an early version of veterinary telehealth. She was doctor number 15 and immediately asked, “Who are the other 14?”

Turned out, the other doctors were working separately as contractors; Roth connected them and formed a team. When they didn’t have answers to all her questions, she brought solutions, she says. “We started to standardize the questions we asked [clients], as well as the experience the pet parent got.”

Roth became their director of veterinary programs, which empowered her to build out the first virtual care university, a platform for training new doctors created from all her notes about what makes a great telehealth or telemedicine exchange.

But she wasn’t satisfied with streamlining things within her team alone, so she started asking other vets why they weren’t offering telehealth services. She got two responses.

“The first was, ‘How could you? You’re going to singlehandedly bring down veterinary medicine,’” she says. “But look, there are over 100,000 pets out there without any type of care at all. At what point do we decide there’s enough for everybody?” Telehealth isn’t affecting the topline of revenue at their hospital because frankly, they aren’t seeing the same clients, she says. “The people coming to us have no veterinary relationship. Over half the people we talk to can’t name a veterinary clinic.”

The other reaction was the opposite: “Oh, wow, we actually do this all the time; we just don’t charge for it. We don’t have a systematic approach, and we don’t have the right boundaries in place.”

However, it wasn’t only her fellow veterinarians Roth wanted to convince but decision-makers at large corporations. Fortunately, through her work on a mergers and acquisitions team for a large veterinary corporation, she had the opportunity to ask various leaders about their goals in business—then explain how telehealth could help both business and pets by accessing new clients, facilitating follow-up, and freeing up staff, all while reducing overhead costs. “The operations piece is actually cheaper for the hospital; they can help more pets than ever, and we can abide by our oath by preventing animals from suffering,” she says.

Telehealth and Senior Pets


Roth notes telehealth is particularly impactful in senior pet health—on the client and the veterinary side. At Fuzzy, she’s proud to have hospice and end-of-life care specialists on staff to talk to pet parents about quality of life. “We educate them on things like sniffaris, puzzles, how to keep their pet engaged cognitively,” she says.

Additionally, transporting senior pets with mobility issues can be challenging, and while some in-office appointments are necessary, a virtual visit can help pet parents know when it’s worth the stress it’ll put on their pet.

Telehealth can also be a tremendous source of support when a pet (senior or otherwise) has a complex medical issue. It can be hard for clients to process the information that accompanies a diagnosis, Roth says. “We often have people say, ‘Hey, my pet has this disease. Now what the heck do I do?’” Her team can go over prescriptions, talk about the disease process, and even set up a digital physical exam to discuss the pathology and outcomes. “They can go over all those things that the clinician probably mentioned in the appointment, but the client couldn’t quite comprehend.”

Importantly, they also get the chance to talk through the hardest decision pet parents must make. “When it’s the middle of the night, and they’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, is it time?’ we’re able to have those discussions—and maybe we can do it before something dramatic happens,” she says. Once a pet has passed, they can connect people with veterinary grief counselors within the Fuzzy network, so even when they no longer have veterinary questions, they’re not alone.

A Future at Fuzzy

After a few years, Roth was ready for a change. “For the first time in my life, I was minding my own business, working at one job and being a mom,” she says.

Then she started getting messages on LinkedIn from a man named Zubin Bhettay.

She ignored them.

“Finally, he said, ‘Hey, I’m the CEO of Fuzzy, and I want to talk to you because I think you might be my new chief veterinary officer,’” she says. “And I was like, well, suddenly I have time to talk to you! Look at that.”

This time, Roth didn’t bring the questions; Bhettay did. He’d seen her videos about telehealth and wanted to know more about her experience, where she saw the field going, and how they could make that happen.

Never before had she aligned so well with someone around their vision for their company. “I had this moment of, is this real?” she says. “One of the things we talked about is that less than 2% of veterinarians are Black. Even less female. And the ones in leadership? It’s less than half a percent. So, Black female chief veterinary officers rarely happen. I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”

Today at Fuzzy, Roth has a virtual veterinary clinic that keeps high medical quality and a great customer experience paramount. They reach populations that might otherwise go without vet care, including clients who are housing challenged, and they employ veterinary professionals who, for one reason or another, can no longer physically work in hospitals but still love practicing veterinary medicine.

Showing Up as Cherice

Aside from advancing virtual veterinary care, Fuzzy has also prioritized representation.

“This is the first time in my entire veterinary career that I can show up as Cherice—and feel safe doing it,” Roth says, her voice filled with emotion. “I didn’t think that was possible, and I vastly underestimated how important it is. I belong here. I’m accepted and celebrated for who I am. I can say what’s on my mind without being worried about being seen as an angry Black woman.”

Because she’s passionate about what she does, and because veterinary telehealth remains controversial, Roth’s often in direct opposition to people she loves and respects. “It’s not easy, but it needs to be done, because the mission is to get these animals the care that they deserve,” she says. “To have to also code switch while doing this hard work would be impossible.”

“I felt immensely alone, not just because I was older and married, but because I was a woman of color in veterinary medicine.”

on her experience in veterinary school

Another indication of Fuzzy’s commitment to representation is the company’s purchase of the first 100 copies of her children’s book, What’s a Real Doctor? The book explains that veterinarians are doctors and features Roth along with two young Black children, her sons Tristan and Cooper. “I don’t have to talk about the fact that I’m a Black, female, dreadlocked veterinarian,” she says. “I just am in that book, and I’m working on a different species in every illustration.” Her second book, What Does a Real Doctor Look Like? shows that doctors look like all of us, she says: “Male, female, anywhere in between, different physical capabilities, different ethnicities, different physical traits.”

While her books are for children, the message serves a broader audience. Truthfully, Roth herself could’ve used it; when she first got into vet school, she says, “I felt immensely alone, not just because I was older and married, but because I was a woman of color in veterinary medicine.”


Organizations like the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association (MCVMA) helped her feel braver about showing up in places as her authentic self, she says. She’s now on the advisory board for MCVMA and Canadian VIBE (Veterinary Professionals Instilling Black Excellence), where she inspires and advocates for the Black community in her profession.

Roth appreciates the recruiting efforts and scholarships being offered to veterinary students of color, but more must be done to let them know they belong. “Once you’ve brought them here, they’re in an echo chamber,” she says. “It’s extremely hard to deal with the labor-intensive rigor of veterinary medicine and also to deal with feeling like you don’t belong there.”

And lip service isn’t enough. “Any time someone asks me to consult or be an advisor, the first thing I do is look at their advisory board,” she says. “Because if you’re telling me that diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity are important to you, I’d better not see a board full of old white dudes. Where’s the effort?”

This shouldn’t be a hard ask. “We are capable. We are leaders. We own and run hospitals and multimillion dollar companies,” she says. “We deserve a seat at the table, and then we can help people feel like they belong.”

The Future of Telehealth

“If you’re telling me that diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity are important to you, I’d better not see a board full of old white dudes.”


That need for representation is also evident when Roth shares her hopes for veterinary telehealth and telemedicine.

There are many conversations happening around telehealth, telemedicine, and what it means for the people and animals in various states. Roth urges those in positions of power to talk to clinicians who are actually doing that work—who are increasing access to care for various populations, and who are unable to provide the level of care those animals need due to regulations preventing them from prescribing. “If you’re having these discussions and you look around the table, and there’s no one there who is actually performing telemedicine? You’re doing it wrong,” she says. “I’ve been in veterinary board meetings and I’ve listened to people say things out of fear that are not accurate. They’re just not.”


Although Roth’s often the one asking questions, she’ll happily answer them, too. “If you want to know how we measure medical quality, if you want to know how we obtain medical histories, how we do digital physical exams, ask me,” she says. “I’m an open book to my colleagues. A rising tide carries all ships.”

We have the capabilities to make veterinary telehealth—and telemedicine—available to everyone, she says. “Let’s make good, common-sense regulations around it—but let’s do it.”

Photo credits: Cherice Roth, FG Trade/E+ via Getty Images, Sviatlana Barchan/iStock via Getty Images Plus, NoSystem images, Edwin Tan/E+ via Getty Images, Fly View Productions/E+ via Getty Images



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