Introduction

Donna Rogers working in the lab

 


Veterinary Medicine has a long history of serving humanity through stewardship of animal resources and the human relationships that attend them. The capacity of the veterinary profession to solve problems relevant to society has continued to increase over time. The incorporation of animals into society as companions and helpers has changed the nature of the profession, especially since World War II, and greatly expanded the mission of our profession.

All this is happening in a changing cultural context in the United States and the world. The purpose of this website has to do with that context. The constituency of the country is changing rapidly in ways that will forever alter the manner in which the veterinary medical profession relates to the human interests of the country and its animal resources.

 

Why do race, ethnicity and culture matter?

During the last twenty years veterinary medicine has seen a major demographic change in terms of gender, with the number of women in veterinary medical colleges increasing to a marked majority. The impact of this change is extending throughout the profession and will continue to do so into the distant future. Much good is coming of it, along with significant changes and concerns. Over time this will bring about revisions in the worldview of the collective profession. For the most part the outcomes cannot be predicted.

The diversity of the veterinary medical profession is substantial in terms of gender, geographic and economic distribution, basic science, and clinical and research expertise and interests. It is important to recognize that diversity has many important aspects. Some would, with reasonable basis, argue that white men have become a minority among the younger strata of veterinary medicine. However the overarching purpose of this website is to focus on one aspect of diversity; people of color.

Veterinary medicine remains the whitest of the professions in the United States while the demographics of the country are rapidly and inexorably changing toward a majority of people of color. By 2050 whites who speak English as a first language are projected to comprise no more than 50% of the population of the United States. The most profound issue related to these changes has nothing to do with skin color. It has everything to do with economic stratification, cultural differences and contrasting worldviews. Without incorporation of cultural and racial diversity veterinary medicine will slowly but surely distance itself from the population it intends to serve – the collective population of the United States and, to an ever-greater extent, the world at large.

The most recent data indicate that the veterinary medicine student body includes 5% Hispanic, 2% African American (this includes Tuskegee), 1% Asian/Pacific Islander and less than 1% Native American with the balance of more than 90% being Caucasian. The numbers have not improved recently and in fact declined marginally this year.


Relevance to a changing culture

Veterinary medical education in general and Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine (KSUCVM) specifically has a long history of preparing outstanding veterinarians of color who have made major contributions to the profession. These relationships have enriched the history of the Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine and the fields of private, public and corporate practice.

However, the participation rate of people of color has not kept pace with the changing presence and role of historically under-represented groups in society. This represents a diminished opportunity both for the profession and the society it serves and also for youth from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.



Creating opportunity

All too often people who see the racial and ethnic constituency of veterinary medicine superficially, or for the first time, take the view that the profession (and its educational arm) should be sure everyone is treated the same and that standards should not be lowered for anyone. Concerns about lowering standards is the default response among a large percentage of the profession. Everyone, including proponents of increasing minority participation in a proactive way, agrees that standards should not be lowered. The issue is not standards, the issue is opportunity.

Within this context, the goals of this website are to:
Educate veterinarians and veterinary students about the value of racial and ethnic diversity and the need to understand and incorporate the strengths of differing worldviews that various groups bring with them.

Provide students of all ethnicities currently in veterinary medical education an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the impact that changing demographics and cultural perspectives will have on their future professional life and the way they serve as veterinarians.

Build on the examples of success and outstanding service rendered the profession by veterinarians of all races and ethnic backgrounds in all aspects of veterinary medicine.

Recall and build upon the role the KSUCVM and other colleges of veterinary medicine, The Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine included, have had in furthering the contributions of under-represented minority veterinarians.