Alumni Spotlight - Karen Whala

Dr. Karen Whala with cat

Alumni Spotlight - Karen Whala

BA '00, DVM ‘06, MPH, DACVPM

Dr. Karen Whala stands as a testament to the enduring spirit and the transformative power of passion. Born in Pasadena, California, to a modest African American family, Karen's humble beginnings never deterred her dreams. With early fascinations with animals, ranging from reptiles to goats, her childhood was filled with visits to petting zoos and memorable appearances at children’s birthday parties with her menagerie. Her journey from there to UC Davis to pursue veterinary medicine was inspired by both an innate love for animals and strong familial values emphasizing hard work, accountability, and moral integrity. 

Dr. Karen Whala with dog

Her undergraduate years at UC Davis (1997-2000) were spent in Animal Science and Management, with a vision set firmly on becoming a veterinarian. Fulfilling this dream, Karen graduated from UC Davis Vet Med in 2006. Later, she pursued her Master of Public Health in Veterinary Medicine and became Board Certified in Veterinary Preventative Medicine.

Karen’s career trajectory, however, was not without its challenges. Initially focusing on mixed and small animal practice, she soon found herself burned out. After a few years working in the FSIS branch of the USDA, and not seeking any relief from the burnout, she decided to take an entirely different path and offer In Home Pet Euthanasia in 2017. What started as a personal response to the challenges of vet practice quickly became an avenue for veterinarians nationwide to combat burnout and find work-life balance. In 2022, she co-founded CodaPet, along with two other veterinarians, Dr. Gary and Bethany Hsia, and has expanded within a year to include over 30 veterinarians, offering invaluable services like in-home euthanasia, which Karen found personally fulfilling and mentally rejuvenating. 

Memory board of fallen animals

Beyond her professional endeavors, Dr. Whala's life in Fresno is colored by her love for hiking and volunteering. As an active community member, she annually leads a beginner's backpacking group to Point Reyes National Seashore and devises functional activities for adults.

In the rapidly changing world of veterinary medicine, Dr. Whala is a beacon of adaptability and resilience. From her days as a mixed animal practitioner to her insights into the future evolution of the profession, she underscores the need for flexibility, specialization, and most importantly, mental health. Karen's current endeavors with CodaPet aim to redefine traditional vet practices, emphasizing mental well-being and offering veterinarians the chance to dictate their schedules.

Her commitment extends to public health and foreign animal disease investigation, areas she remains deeply passionate about. While her time as a business owner has introduced her to interdisciplinary collaborations, ranging from marketing to legal issues, it has also fortified her belief in holistic veterinary care.

Looking forward, Dr. Whala aspires to further the mission of CodaPet, addressing burnout and work-life balance issues plaguing veterinarians today. And to prospective vet students or those eyeing UC Davis, her advice resonates with her life's philosophy: to weigh the requirements against the rewards and tread forward with a clear vision.

Today, as Dr. Karen Whala looks back at her journey and forward to the horizon, her story stands as a testament to the transformative power of passion, resilience, and an undying love for animals. Her legacy, encapsulated in CodaPet, serves as an enduring reminder of the potential within all of us to redefine and reshape industries for the better. For more information or partnership opportunities, visit
In-Home Pet Euthanasia - CodaPet

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