GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The field of veterinary medicine has been a popular choice for many students looking to make a career of helping animals for a living, but statistics show that very few of those students are people of color.

According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1.2% of veterinarians in the United States are Black. The national organization Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE) is trying to change that.

“We really have a passion and a mission to prioritize and amplify voices in the BIPOC community, which is Black and Indigenous people of color and other marginalized communities. So communities that don’t always have productive resources to utilize, but more in regards to pet health care, the human-animal bonds and the human-animal well-being framework,” Dr. Azalia Boyd, committee chair of the advisory board, said. “It’s a lot of connecting with BIPOC communities, marginalized communities, letting them know that we care about their relationships with their pets.”

With a higher demand these days for veterinarians based on the need out there, there’s such a small percentage of people of color going into the field of veterinary medicine. Boyd hopes that changes.

“I’m going to say that this is multifactorial. There’s lots of reasons around it, but I think primarily, one of the reasons is that there’s a lack of adequate recruitment of students into U.S. veterinary colleges, minority students. Minority high school students might be interested in health careers, but few actually select veterinary medicine as their choice,” Boyd said.

She believes recruitment can start at an early age and once the interest is there, incoming classes need to welcome a more diverse student body.

Another reason for the lack of diversity, Boyd said, is the financial cost and lack of role models who are people of color.

To help with financial costs, CARE is promoting programs to encourage diversity as well as scholarships.

“The scholarship fund really is for veterinary students, so current veterinary students that are in need of financial assistance in veterinary school. So that is our focus for this month. It’s Black History Month, so our focus is really just all of the donations that we get, primarily this month going toward our students. But people can donate at any time,” she said.

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