New Yorker Goes the Distance to Achieve Her Goals

May 14, 2020 / Alumni News / General News

[Dr. Anita Kalonaros at the White Coat Ceremony]

‘Come on, let’s go’

Anita Kalonaros has been chasing her dream of becoming a veterinarian for as long as she can remember.

[Anita Kalonaros finishes the Chicago Triathlon]

Anita Kalonaros approaches her personal and professional goals with drive and determination.

“I think it’s something I’ve always said my entire life,” the Long Island, N.Y., native reflects. “I’m not sure there was ever a specific moment. We have papers from when I was in grade school, as far back as first grade, and whenever the teachers would ask, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I always wrote, ‘Either someone who helps animals, or a veterinarian.’”

Dream fulfilled. And to help her make it to the finish line of graduation at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Kalonaros pushed her pace even harder.

She became a marathon runner.

“I ran throughout undergrad, but I started more seriously running distance once I got to vet school,” she says. “It was a way for me to relieve stress. So on a weekend I would go out and run for an hour. I signed up for the Illinois Half Marathon in the spring of my first year here, then my second year I said, ‘I think I’m going to try the marathon.’”

Drive and Determination

Kalonaros completed the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, finishing eighth in her class. Then, as a possible indicator of the drive and determination she will bring to her profession, at the encouragement of a college faculty member, Dr. Sara Connolly, she advanced to triathlons.

“She got me interested,” Kalonaros says. “I did the Chicago Triathlon with her and a few other doctors and students.”

After earning a B.S. in biology from Fordham University in the Bronx, “I applied to a bunch of schools and looked at many different programs,” Kalonaros recalls. “I really liked that Illinois had rotations from the first year. We got to go into the hospital. I thought that was great, and once I actually experienced it, it was awesome for me. I got to see, ‘This is why I’m here, everything’s going to be OK.’ It was like, ‘Come on, let’s go.’”

I really liked that Illinois had rotations from the first year. We got to go into the hospital. I thought that was great, and once I actually experienced it, it was awesome for me. I got to see, ‘This is why I’m here, everything’s going to be OK.’

Dr. Anita Kalonaros, Class of 2020

The best part of her vet school experience, she says, has been “getting to this point, where I’ve transitioned into clinics. I’ve gotten to actually do some hands-on work with animals, be in charge of my own cases and patients, and have their lives in my hands, as my responsibility. It’s been really cool for me to finally be at this point after three years of classroom work most of the time.”

Travel to Animal Shelter in Greece

[Anita Kalonaros with dog at shelter in Greece]

Anita Kalonaros displayed her Illinois pride while volunteering at the animal shelter in Greece in 2018.

Her veterinary curriculum also afforded Kalonaros the opportunity to travel to her ancestral home, Greece. As part of a team of faculty and students led by international programs coordinator Dr. Dikaia-Loukia Agapis, Kalonaros spent two weeks working at a large municipal animal shelter in Agapis’ home village of Rhodes.

“The shelter situation was pretty horrible,” Kalonaros says. “They had a capacity of 75, and they had almost 300 dogs there at the time. So we went in and did a lot of organization trying to identify animals, we spayed and neutered a lot of animals, and we did some preventive medical care.”

Before the pandemic changed everything, she had planned to return to the shelter with Dr. Agapis this year. “I think she has about 18 first- and second-year veterinary students and a few veterinarians who are going to go and do the same things we did before,” Kalonaros says. “Now they have 500 animals in a shelter that’s supposed to have 75, so they’re going to need a lot of work again. But this time I’m going back as a doctor, and I’m excited for that.”

And Dr. Agapis is excited to have her. “Anita enjoys dentistry and wanted to provide free dentistry to the stray animals in Greece,” she says. “She is a very hard worker, one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave, always with a smile. She would stay up past midnight to get surgery packs ready for the next day.

“Anita is one of the best students I’ve ever had, one of those students that truly makes teaching fun, and I’m looking forward to hearing about all the wonderful things she’ll accomplish as a veterinarian.”

Return to New York

Whatever accomplishments she attains will be made back home in New York. As an undergrad she participated with New York City Audubon in the “Bronx Zoo Flight Tunnel Project,” an effort to engrave different patterns on glass to see what birds can and cannot see, then replicate them on skyscrapers to help prevent birds from flying into buildings. And rather than specialize or do an internship after graduation, Kalonaros has decided to work at Animal Emergency Service on Long Island.

“Oh, I have to go back there,” the native New Yorker declares. “There’s no way I’m staying out in the Midwest. No offense.”

By Jim McFarlin

[Anita Kalonaros and her dog in front of Foellinger Auditorium]

Anita and her dog, Kona, pose on the Quad at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.