The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech is doing its part to contribute to the diversity of the veterinary profession.

“The number of diverse students in our community has significantly increased over the past two years,” noted Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services. “This is the result of a focused recruitment effort, as well as a welcoming environment.”

Since 2012, the college has seen just over a 50 percent diversity increase in its student population including African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Latino students, as well as those who identify as gay. In a field that has most recently been dominated by female students, the college has also had successes in male student recruitment and retention.

“We’re very excited about this trend that is creating an enriched learning environment for our students,” said Pelzer. “Our student culture is changing to mirror society and its needs.”

The college graduated its first Doctor of Veterinary Medicine class in 1984 and its first African-American doctors of veterinary medicine two years later. Two females, Dr. Lynn Hoban and Dr. Margie Lee, hold that distinction.

Today Hoban, who received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the college in 1986, owns and operates her own practice, Friendship Pet Hospital, in Fountain Hills, Ariz. Her areas of special interest include endocrinology, internal medicine, and ophthalmology. Lee, who is also a member of the college's Class of 1986, is a professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Athens, Ga., where she also received her master’s and doctoral degrees in medical microbiology. Lee’s research interests include food safety, vaccines, and biologics, disease ecology, and microbial ecology.

The first African-American male graduated from the college four years later. Dr. Mario Dance, Class of 1990, now works as a clinical veterinarian in charge of animal care at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. For almost 15 years, he has also served as a consultant veterinarian with the Veterans Administration providing animal care and research consultation.

In 2010, students at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine founded a chapter of the national organization, Veterinary Students as One In Culture and Ethnicity. Its goal is to celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity in the veterinary community and to promote a culture of tolerance and awareness.

“[The chapter] provides a platform for discussion of sociocultural issues within the profession and our communities,” said Dr. Ed Monroe, professor of small animal internal medicine and the chapter's faculty advisor. “The group also provides education and outreach opportunities aimed at celebrating and building our diversity.”

Monroe has also been a leader on the national level where he served as chair of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Diversity Committee. He will complete his one-year appointment this July.

Dr. Cyril R. Clarke, dean of the veterinary college headquartered in Blacksburg, Va., said, “Although our advances in this area are something we are very proud of, we cannot be complacent and must continue our focus on increasing diversity.”

Learn more about the college’s commitment to diversity on its website.