As a high schooler, Kayla Jackson, class of ‘24, knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. As an undergraduate, two attempts at organic chemistry derailed her dream. After nearly a decade in a field she didn’t love, she found Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Now, she’s being recognized with a national scholarship for diversity and leadership.
In December, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) announced that Jackson, was among just 18 awardees of the Merck Animal Health Diversity Leadership Scholarship for her efforts to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in veterinary medicine. Awardees are student leaders who enhanced diversity and inclusion through course projects, co-curricular activities, outreach, domestic and community engagement, research, or developed an early reputation for influencing others to be inclusive.
Originally from Oakdale, California, Jackson worked as a veterinary technician prior to enrolling at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After those two attempts at passing organic chemistry she switched to communications, graduated, and worked in various roles before her true passion resurfaced. “I was 28 in a private government sector job and hated it,” recalled Jackson. “I said to myself this is not where your passion is. It is with veterinary medicine. I am going back.”
Jackson enrolled in community college to finish the prerequisite courses for veterinary school. She also worked as a veterinary assistant and later as a technician for an emergency clinic. She enrolled at Ross Vet in 2020.
She quickly got involved in the Ross Vet community, joining the Student National Association for Black Veterinarians (SNABV), a chapter organization that advocates for and builds a network of support for Black students through mentorship, professional development, and career planning. As she advanced through her pre-clinical coursework, she rose to the membership chair position and led recruitment and retention.
“One of the things you ask yourself as a person of color is ‘where do I fit in?’” she said. “I am a Black woman and an older student. I hope I can be an example that someone who looks like them is becoming a veterinarian. Whether it be race, age, gender, religion, any demographic is accepted here and that is so important for our community.”
RUSVM STUDENT AMERICAN VETERINATY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
Jackson also served as cultural outreach officer for Ross Vet’s chapter of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA). That position dually serves on the university’s DEI Committee.
“I knew I wanted to be involved with student groups, but I never imagined it to the extent that I ended up,” she said. “These are my peers that I am going to be working with in the future, so I figured if I could establish myself, get to know people, build a rapport and reputation, there is no better time than now. I am giving it 110%.”
Jackson says her crowning achievement is the meditation room opening this spring. “Students will have a safe, private space to practice their religion or just take a quick break in a quiet place,” said Jackson.
The Spring 2023 semester will be Jackson’s first in clinical rotations at the University of Missouri, so she won’t be present to witness the grand opening of the meditation room. However, her involvement as a student leader will continue.
“I am always here and willing to lend a hand. I always tell Ross Vet students that whenever you need something, do not hesitate to be in touch. I want to be remembered as someone always willing to help and go the extra mile to get things done.”