Diversity Shines at One Vet School and It’s a Game Changer

By:Seventh Point01/25/2016

Nearly 60% of the nation’s African-American veterinarians have graduated from Tuskegee University. It’s their mission at the core. See what Tuskegee is……

Are you an animal lover? I am and have been since I was a kid. The first animals I can really remember in my life were two stray black and white cats, Tippy and Tinsy, who would greet me daily at the screen door inside my garage. I have vivid memories of being licked in the face by my pup Nugget, my half Toy Terrier/Sheltie. And my only companion when I lived alone in D.C. was a handsome pure white American Eskimo named Kodi. I have a good friend who literally rides a Texas Longhorn from his small ranch to the Cowboy Church he pastors and another buddy of mine who makes his living on the back of a horse every day.

One Veterinary School Stands Above

Those of you who love, care for, rely on, and appreciate what animals do for people and the economy should have a great respect for the field of veterinary medicine. Without these professionals, our lives and livelihoods would be very different. What you probably do not realize is that without the presence of one school of veterinary medicine, found on the campus of Tuskegee University (TU) in Tuskegee, Alabama, the field of veterinary medicine would look and be much different.

A few months ago, I got a tip from a colleague about a school of veterinary medicine worth looking into. I don’t often single out specific schools for an article on Connection Point, but I felt compelled to for this one. Most of you might know TU because of its rich heritage and historical significance. Tuskegee University enrolls more than 3,000 students on its expansive 5,000-acre campus. Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881, this 135-year-old institution served as home to the great scientist George Washington Carver and trained America’s first black pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen.[i]

TU’s Mission at the Core

Ranked as the No. 6 Best Historically Black College and University (HBCU) for 2016 in the nation by[ii], TU is arguably one of the most impressive colleges on the map. But did you know that TU boasts something else? It is the only HBCU with a nationally accredited school of veterinary medicine in the United States. In fact, Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine (TUSVM) educates the highest number of African-American and underrepresented minority students in veterinary science today. It’s TUSVM’s mission at the core.

But here’s another statistic for you that I think you’ll find interesting:

“Approximately 60% of the nation’s African-American veterinarians have graduated from the Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine.”

Drs. Ruby Perry, dean of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine (left), and Cheryl G. Davis, associate dean for strategic initiatives and coordinator of the Centers of Excellence program (right).

Drs. Ruby Perry, dean of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine (left), and Cheryl G. Davis, associate dean for strategic initiatives and coordinator of the Centers of Excellence program (right).

I had the pleasure of talking with TUSVM’s Dean, Dr. Ruby Perry, to learn about one of the nation’s leading veterinary colleges. Dr. Perry graduated from TUSVM with her doctorate in veterinary medicine and was the first African-American female board-certified veterinary radiologist. After having served Michigan State University as chief of diagnostic imaging and holding a 17-year tenured associate professorship, Dr. Perry returned to TU as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.  Dr. Perry is now Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health (CVNAH), which is also historic in that she became the first African-American female dean of a veterinary program in the nation.

TUSVM was established in 1945 for the training of African-Americans, a time when minority students did not have other opportunities to study veterinary medicine due to segregation and other racial impediments. TUSVM graduated its first class of fully qualified veterinarians in 1949. With a current student population of 276, TUSVM offers the doctorate of veterinary medicine, doctorate in integrative biosciences, and a doctorate in interdisciplinary pathobiology, as well as multiple master’s degrees.

Educating the Educators

TUSVM graduates are educated and prepared for professions in industries such as primary care and specialty practice veterinarians, animal health, public health, food safety, education, research, pharmaceutical industry, military service, and public policy. And TUSVM has the most loyal and giving alumni, with over 2,700 members, many of whom provide scholarships to current students and serve as visiting scholars and alumni board advisory members.

But talk about a lopsided professional field; according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, “In 2013, 97.3% of veterinarians in the workforce were white – the highest of any profession.”[iii] Today, TUSVM enrolls the most diverse student body of any veterinary medicine school or college in the nation. In fact, more than 75% of its 2014 class were racially and ethnically underrepresented veterinary medicine students.

racial & ethnic students at US vet colleges

TUSVM’s mission is to recruit, educate, and graduate African-American and underrepresented students who will make a significant impact on advancing the veterinary profession but also uphold the legacy and the mission of the school. Dean Perry shared with me:

“Like any veterinary program, we are competing for the top students everywhere; however, we are going to specifically target underrepresented groups because our focus is to be inclusive and play a significant role in educating underrepresented groups needed to address the growing veterinary needs in a diverse national and global population.”

TUSVM’s track record speaks for itself, academically speaking. All accredited veterinary schools must post their North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) results and have an institution pass rate of 80% or higher. For the last eight years, TUSVM’s average pass rate has been 90%. In September 2015, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) named TUSVM as the No. 1 school of veterinary medicine targeting the education of underrepresented students, specifically African-Americans.

TUSVM Awarded $7.1 Million Grant

Befitting of its stature and capability, TU was awarded an impressive $7.1 million grant to recruit, train, and retain underrepresented populations. This money will help the veterinary program expand its ability to bring the best-possible diverse student population to its Alabama campus for the purposes of educating these ethnically underrepresented budding veterinary medical students.

What’s not to like about TUSVM? It boasts a small faculty-to-student ratio as one of the smaller veterinary schools and has strong one-on-one interactive sessions with students. The faculty knows its students by name, and students can travel internationally to go to underrepresented areas to learn in the most diverse settings possible. Moreover, TUSVM can brag just a bit since approximately 98% of its students are employed after graduation. According to Dean Perry, “TUSVM is a place where diversity shines at its best.” Between 1973 and 2015, five TUSVM graduates have served as deans of veterinary schools. One graduate even served as the AVMA president.

I guess you could say that TUSVM “educates the educators.” I expect even greater things from this impressive institution of veterinary medicine in the years to come. Talk about a school with a unique selling point – this is a game changer and TUSVM has great things in store for the future of veterinary medicine. And you know what they say: “When you got it ….” You know the rest.

To learn more about this unique institution, visit them at Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.    



Written by Jeremy Fern, Account Executive for Higher Ed

2 responses to “Diversity Shines at One Vet School and It’s a Game Changer”

  1. Sandra Missildine says:

    I have great respect for Tuskegee vet schools, both small and large animal. I’ve had my horses and dogs there and they received excellent care.

    • Jeremy Fern says:

      Sandra, thanks for your comment! I’ve really learned a lot about the professionalism and passion that the TUSVM brings to their work and educational model. I have great respect for them as well. So glad your animals received great care. No surprise there! Credit to what Dean Perry and her staff/faculty are doing at TU.

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