Beginning this semester, students at Harris Stowe State University in St. Louis have the opportunity, through a partnership between the Purina Scholars Program and the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, to participate in the Missouri Online Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Sciences. The Purina Scholars Program sponsors participation in the 16-hour veterinary certificate program for three students majoring in biology or who have an expressed desire to attend veterinary school.
Harris Stowe is a Historically Black College or University, or HBCU. The United States Department of Education defines HBCUs as any historically Black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principle mission is the education of Black Americans. HBCUs must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or making reasonable progress toward accreditation.
According to 2017 figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterinary workforce in the United States is made up of roughly 2 percent Black veterinarians. The aim of the partnership between the Purina Scholars Program, Harris Stowe and the CVM is to introduce Black students to the profession with a goal of improving future diversity.
The undergraduate certificate in veterinary science is a pathway for these students to take a first step toward the veterinary profession. The program was developed to better prepare pre-veterinary medical students for success when they entered the professional veterinary curriculum and for a future career in veterinary medicine. Laurie Wallace, DVM, MVSc, DACVIM, an associate teaching professor and the director of veterinary online and undergraduate programs at the CVM, emphasized the value of the program to students. “It provides them with courses that are directly preparatory and related to the type of courses that they would have in any college of veterinary medicine program,” said Wallace. “They’re all taught by our faculty members, with some being taught by faculty who also teach veterinary students. These students are not only being prepared with content, but also with rigor and getting to know some of the instructors that they might have as veterinary students.”
Wallace said one of the goals of the partnership is to make the participating Harris Stowe students comfortable while introducing them to veterinary medicine. “We want to interest students from underrepresented groups in veterinary medicine,” said Wallace. “We want to allow students to get their feet wet and feel more at home with veterinary medicine. Offering this as an online program is very important because these students don’t have to move and can maintain their current circumstances while taking our classes. We’ve also set this up as a cohort experience with three students admitted in each group. Purina Scholars students enroll in the same classes each semester and have the opportunity to network with each other.”
“We have a lot to learn and a long way to go to reach our goal of creating a veterinary student population that accurately reflects the population of the state of Missouri,” said Wallace. “It gives us the opportunity to learn more about black students, their interests and why they want to go to veterinary school.”
By Nick Childress