Raju Naik, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition)
This is the latest in a series of interviews with Board-certified veterinary specialists of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) to share insights, knowledge and expertise about career opportunities, growth and development. Today we hear from ACVIM Nutrition Diplomate Dr. Raj Naik.
Dr. Raj Naik is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist and Veterinary Communications Manager with Nestlé Purina PetCare. He developed a special interest in clinical nutrition while at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed a rotating internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital and pursued specialty training in small animal clinical nutrition at the University of Tennessee. Shortly after completing his residency, Dr. Naik joined Nestlé Purina. Dr. Naik is an affiliate faculty member at Colorado State University and serves on the Membership Committee for the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
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? Is there any advice you would specifically give to job seekers?
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 does a typical workday look like for you?
I enjoy not having a typical workday. I work remotely so I may be delivering a CE lecture in the morning and then getting on a plane that afternoon to attend a conference. I support our sales team in the field, work with our marketing folks for technical review of new products and collateral, answer clinical nutrition questions, organize internal and external continuing education, and visit universities as a liaison between our organization and the veterinary community. The theme throughout my day is education. I’m lucky to have a job that lets me use my veterinary specialty knowledge while challenging me to solve problems I wasn’t taught about in any of my previous training.
What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?
Immersing myself in the veterinary nutrition world was the best strategy for fostering a career in the field. With the help of my mentors in vet school, I submitted a research abstract to the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition conference and presented while I was still in school. That gave me the opportunity to network and eventually be accepted to a nutrition residency.
What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
I used to struggle (and sometimes still do) with saying yes to every opportunity that came my way. I think the pandemic exacerbated this tendency when we were all trying out new ways of working and learning how to continue engaging with one another in the changing environment. It is very much a work in progress, but I try to clarify my priorities daily. That has helped with focusing on what has the biggest impact both professionally and personally.
Finally, what is something unique about your career, or career path?
I come from a family that was afraid of dogs and cats! I was obsessed with learning about animals from a young age, so I don’t think anyone could have convinced me that a career in science wasn’t in the cards. I finally got my first four-legged pet in my first year of vet school and we now happily have one dog and two cats.
Learn more about the ACVIM and its members.