On the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) and nationally recognised veterinary certification programme blendVET hosted some 80 middle school students from underserved communities in central Florida for a full day of hands-on learning at the 41st Veterinary Meeting and Expo, VMX 2024. The students enjoyed a day full of immersive activities alongside veterinarians and veterinary nurses/technicians.
Veterinary medicine is one of the least diverse fields in America. Data from 2021 shows 93.3 percent of veterinarians are white, with as few as 1.2 percent Black, 4.7 percent Latinx and 5.6 percent Asian.
“We’re proud to have partnered with blendVET again for this wonderful annual event that inspires and opens doors for young people to explore career opportunities in veterinary medicine, especially those underserved and not well-represented in today’s veterinary industry,” said NAVC CEO Gene O’Neill. “The NAVC looks forward to continuing to offer opportunities for underrepresented youth to pursue veterinary careers, especially after the continual success of the yearly event.”
“Our annual event is extremely important to realising more diversity in our field,” said Dr Niccole Bruno, founder and CEO of blendVET. “Giving back to the community has always been important to me, especially in the form of mentorship. This profession has been a big part of my life since I was 12 years old, and I enjoy engaging students, typically those underrepresented in veterinary medicine. It’s rewarding to show them what this field entails and the opportunities available to them. For the second year in a row, our blend pathway programme has opened new doors for underserved youth to pursue veterinary careers in the years to come.”
The students learned about the various aspects of veterinary medicine from a diverse group of veterinary experts while wearing surgical gowns of their own. They tried their hand at immersive training experiences such as suturing models at the surgery station, performing CPR at the ER stations, observing physical examinations and checking samples under microscopes. Sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and VCA, the “Believe and Belong in Veterinary Medicine” interactive workshops were led by a diverse group of veterinary professionals including:
- Niccole Bruno, DVM, CEO and founder of blendVET
- Kenneth Pierce, DVM, DAVCO
- Valerie Marcano, DVM, PhD, DACPV
Participants were presented with a certificate verifying they earned seven hours of education in veterinary medicine. The students were also given a list of local veterinarians interested in providing shadowing opportunities to allow them to continue in the field of veterinary medicine as their education progresses.
In concert with the student programming, blendVET hosted a parent programme to educate parents on the various pathways in veterinary medicine and shared resources on the next steps for their children. The blendVET faculty shared personal stories of resilience and success in veterinary medicine with the support of their families.