Barriers That Limit Entry of Underrepresented People of Color 

in Veterinary Medical Education and Profession


By Annie J. Daniel, PhD | Fall 2020 -The Michigan Veterinarian

The number of underrepresented people of color (URPCs) in the veterinary profession and education has seen little increase in numbers in the professoriate and student population. As reported by the U. S. Census, they project that by the year 2042 the racial minority will be the majority of the U. S. population. The Pew Research Center reported that white Americans would decrease from 85 percent of the population to 43 percent, while Black and Hispanic Americans will reach 45 percent of the population by 2060. With these statistics in mind, the client base across all health professions, including medicine and veterinary medicine, will change. Results indicate that African Americans are an untapped resource of students interested in academic medicine as a career, while rural students are less attracted to this area.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and the American Veterinary Medical Association realize that such compositional changes in the general population requires an increased strategic effort to recruit, educate and graduate a diverse veterinary workforce. According to a report written by Thompson (2013) with data from Bulletin for Labor Statistics, veterinary medicine is the “whitest profession” in the United States (with the profession composed of 96.5% Caucasian practitioners). According to the 2020 Internal AAVMC Data Report, when the applicants’ pool was analyzed by race and ethnicity, it revealed that a total 2.8% of the pool was African American and total enrolled of the class of 2023 is 3.4 % and 3% of the total population of DVM Student Population (total population (13,548). 

If increased resources and recruitment efforts are not a part of strategic plans for increasing URPC in veterinary education programs in universities and colleges, the current data for URPC will remain constant.  This has been the case for many decades and those universities and colleges that have solid strategic plans and resources have seen an increased number of URPC enroll in their programs.

Additionally, there are several effective research-based efforts that are documented to increase diversity and inclusion, including:

    • Outreach: To all educational institutions in the state, inclusive of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU), public elementary, middle, and high schools, targeting populations of students that may have been previously overlooked or thought to be under-qualified.
    • Scientifically based Holistic admissions: Holistic review is a university admissions strategy that assesses an applicant's unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores.
    • Changing the culture and environment to be more inclusive: Training and improving the knowledge base of all within the institution to acquire an understanding of how inclusion is a key component of diversity and the environment must be assessed to ensure diverse populations are welcome. At the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the admissions committee completes an Implicit Association Test (IAT) and Relevant Diversity and Inclusion College of Veterinary Medicine training (e.g. for admissions, search committees), which has shown to lead to a more diverse selection of applicants.
    • Setting realistic goals: For diversity and meeting those goals annually.
    • Dispelling myths- About the performance levels of underrepresented populations of students’ inability to achieve in a rigorous educational setting.
    • Allocating resources: To ensure success for recruiting, academic achievement, scholarships, diverse faculty, staff, and students
    • Improving experiences and retention of underrepresented faculty of color: They encounter difficulties in academic medicine that are similar to those confronted by minority students during their medical education.
    • Addressing the common barriers: For under-represented minority (URM) students and faculty that includes isolation, stereotyping and/or racism, lack of mentoring, and institutions being inadequately structured for minority faculty advancement.
    • Environmental and climate issues: The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges-American Veterinary Medical Association (AAVMC-AVMA) reports that underrepresented veterinary students may experience a less welcoming social and academic climate on their campus as a result of overhearingintolerant language, lacking mentors, and experiencing discomfort in less diverse learning environments.
    • Addressing the realities of climate issues: These may dissuade URM student trainees from pursuing faculty positions. By determining what institutions can do to nurture minority graduates to pursue to consider entering a career in academic medicine. The AAMC contends that academic health centers can enhance the number of underrepresented minority faculty by 1) creating an environment that allows for a more balanced personal life, 2) supporting community-based initiatives, 3) encouraging interdisciplinary work and 4) rewarding quality teaching efforts. These are recommendations that both veterinary and academic medical health centers should seriously consider developing.

Campbell, KM, Rodriguez JE. Minority faculty face challenges similar to those of minority college students. Academic Medicine. 2013 88(3): 1056-1057.

Thompson, D. (November 6, 2013). The Atlanta. The 33 Whitest Jobs in America. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/the-33-whitest-jobs-in-america/281180/

Durant, T. J. (2015) A View from the Inside: Thirty-Six Years of Desegregation. Baton Rouge, LA: Durant Publishing Company


Annie J. Daniel, Ph.D. is the Founder and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Education Leadership & Professionals and National Association for Black Veterinarians, Director of Veterinary Outcomes Assessment & Graduate Certificate for Teaching in Healthcare Professions, Associate Professor of Veterinary Medical Education Affiliate Faculty, African and African American Studies at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and can be reached at info@nabvonline.org.

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