Skilled agricultural veterinarians are essential to the success of local farms and ranches, and the communities that depend on them. They monitor the health of animals, develop herd wellness plans, administer medications, perform surgeries and even consult on barn and habitat construction and maintenance. Plus, they may work for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or in the livestock transportation sector, biotechnology industry and more. Yet, the number of qualified veterinarians is not keeping pace with the needs of the agricultural industry. What’s more, the profession doesn’t reflect the diversity of the farming communities it serves: A 2019 survey found that in the United States, the veterinarian college student body is 71% white, with just under 20% from groups that have been historically underrepresented in the field, including Asian, Hispanic/Latino and African American students.footnote1
That’s why Texas Tech University, a nearly 100-year-old Hispanic Serving Institution in the heart of West Texas cattle country, is stepping up its efforts to educate the next generation of veterinarians. To increase the number of vets in this agricultural area of the country, its School of Veterinary Medicine has developed a new program to recruit and train students from underserved communities, with an emphasis on those from Hispanic/Latino backgrounds. “Our new programs will be a fantastic academic home for students, staff and faculty from all backgrounds,” says Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “Support from the local community and the private sector, including Bank of America, have made our vision a reality. It’s a gift that will support critical programs and recruitment efforts across the region.” The initiative is supported by a grant from Bank of America, part of its $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.
With a curriculum tailored to animal-care needs and an emphasis on experiential learning, the program’s long-term goal is to increase the number of veterinarians in local communities as well as the agricultural industry as a whole. The Great Plains region (where Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine is located) produces one-quarter of the U.S. beef supply and is the third largest milk-producing area in the country. Once this new crop of students graduates, these veterinarians can support the growth and success of local farms and ranches, and enhance the safety and quality of the food supply for generations to come.