Association aims to increase racial diversity in vet medicine

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Black female veterinarian holding a catBlack Americans have been significantly underrepresented within the veterinary profession for decades.

Records show that just 70 black students graduated from U.S. and Canadian veterinary schools between 1889 and 1948. That number increased with the addition of a veterinary school at Tuskegee University, a historically black college, in 1945. More than half a century later, however, black Americans remain chronically underrepresented in veterinary medicine, never comprising more than 3 percent of the profession at any time.

The National Association for Black Veterinarians is a newly created organization with a mission of correcting this historical disparity.

"We believe that now is the time to bring attention to the fact that the numbers of blacks in the profession have not increased in decades," said NABV founder and interim president Annie Daniel, PhD. She is director of veterinary instructional design and outcomes assessment at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

"Our research over the past almost 10 years shows that diversity and inclusion have to be a strategically planned effort and resources must be allocated to ensure that the plan can be implemented and successful," Dr. Daniel explained.

The NABV's umbrella organization is the Institute for Healthcare Education Leadership and Professionals, whose vision for veterinary medicine is to increase the number of black people in the profession.

Part of the NABV's strategy is to work collaboratively with organizations to ensure research-based methods are implemented to increase diversity and inclusion in the veterinary profession and colleges.

In addition, the organization plans to support black people in the veterinary profession by doing the following:

  • Encouraging advocacy efforts to increase the number of black people in the veterinary profession.
  • Providing high-quality professional development for veterinarians.
  • Educating students about career choices in veterinary medicine.
  • Educating teachers and guidance counselors about careers in the veterinary profession.
  • Providing educational opportunities and experiential learning opportunities for students interested in a career as a veterinarian.

"Our research has shown that those students learning about the profession and having opportunities to see people who look like them are more inclined to develop interest and enter the profession," Dr. Daniel said. "I know that this should happen early on and the experiences should be educational as well as fun."

The NABV currently has 25 members representing a mix of undergraduates, university faculty, and professionals. That number is expected to increase with awareness about the organization, which began publicizing itself in December, according to Dr. Daniel. Membership in the NABV is open to all races and ethnicities and starts at the high school level.

The NABV's inaugural event will be held June 7-8 in New Orleans. The theme, "The State of Blacks in Veterinary Medicine," is intended not only to raise awareness about the lack of black Americans in veterinary medicine but also to develop an action plan for increasing diversity in the profession.

The conference will feature several speakers, research presentations, and presentations on diversity and inclusion. Sessions on the importance of business planning, assessing growth, and management will also be offered.

For more information about the NABV and June conference, visit the NABV website.

Related JAVMA content:

"In the News: Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine"