Being Black in a White Profession- Closing the Gap on Racial Representation
When it comes to diversity, Black veterinarians are chronically underrepresented in veterinary medicine. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022 reporting, only about 2.2% of veterinarians are Black.
Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) is striving to change that.
During Black History Month, when the accomplishments and legacy of African Americans are honored, Ross Vet is setting out to close the gap on racial representation in the veterinary profession and demonstrate to Black students that a career in veterinary medicine is attainable for them.
At Ross Vet, we believe that racism is a public health crisis that must be addressed. With our focus on One Health – the philosophy that human health, animal health, and environmental health are connected – addressing racial disparities and their impact on human health and wellbeing is part of our core commitments. This manifests in multiple ways. First, a veterinary workforce that’s representative of the diverse population of pet owners can understand the different determinants affecting animal ownership and their impacts on animal health. Second, diverse vets are better equipped to understand how zoonotic diseases can specifically impact and affect different racial or ethnic groups, and the broader implications on the correlation between human, animal and environmental health. We believe that having diverse backgrounds, experiences, and identities enhances our ability to meet the needs of the veterinary profession across the globe.
To diversify the veterinary field and increase access to education, RUSVM offers several unique programs that are committed to strengthening veterinary practices by supporting inclusion.
RUSVM DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
We believe in building strong relationships with select colleges and universities, with the purpose of helping eligible students move seamlessly from their undergraduate studies to veterinary school. The RUSVM Articulation Partner Scholarship for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is available to students through a growing number of partnerships including Dillard University; Prairie View A&M; North Carolina A&T State University; and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
We partner with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) - a national society that welcomes membership of people of all racial and ethnic group participation and promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences. Through our collaboration with MANRRS, we are proud to offer its members access to educational, experiential, and professional development and opportunities to follow their chosen career in veterinary medicine.
Our Access and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine (AIM) program is creating meaningful access to veterinary medicine for highly qualified Black and Latinx students through partnerships with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
Exemplifying a commitment to change, RUSVM established a chapter of the Student National Association of Black Veterinarians (SNABV) in 2020. SNABV’s mission is to advocate for and build a network of support for Black students at RUSVM through mentorship, professional development, and career planning. Another organization, called Veterinary Students as One In Culture and Ethnicity (VOICE) is a national student-run organization that is committed to promoting cultural competency and awareness in veterinary medicine. VOICE encourages acknowledgment, understanding, and respect of cultural differences to enhance the personal and professional growth of individuals within the field of veterinary medicine.
FACULTY, ALUMNI AND STUDENT IMPACT
Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in veterinary medicine can be seen in the world through the combined efforts of our faculty, our alumni and our students. Through research, community outreach, mentorship, networking and leading by example, the RUSVM family is making tangible, positive social impacts within the communities we serve. Below are just a few examples of these commitments in action:
- Kayla Jackson, Class of ‘24, Earns Diversity Leadership Scholarship
- Dr. Navarrete Talloni Honored with National SAVMA Diversity Award
- Dazjah Samuels, Class of ‘24, Receives Foundation for Food and Agriculture
- Black History Month Spotlight: Dr. Natalie Ragland ‘11
- Dr. Clarke: Someone Has to Do It, Why Can’t It Be You?
- Ross Vet’s SNABV Chapter Helps Lead the Way for Diversity
Our efforts to provide a bridge into veterinary medicine for Black students and other underrepresented populations are starting to make a difference. 38 (or 3.12%)of the 1,200 graduates between 2020 and 2022 were Black or African American, compared to national statistics in 2022 where only 2.2% of vets are Black.
As we celebrate the work we’ve done to date and look toward future improvements, we will continue to hold ourselves and our organization accountable to our mission and to our commitment to fight against systemic racism and for social justice. Our intentions are sincere, and we will work in an open, collaborative manner. We also recognize that we will make mistakes and will need to adjust along the way. There’s still much room for growth, but with consistent progress we can keep reaching toward a more equitable future for the veterinary industry.