JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Humane Society has acknowledged the lack of diversity in the field of veterinary medicine and is now doing something about it through a partnership with Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology on the Westside.
Diamond Canada, Isyss Cornely and Savannah Davis are 17-year-old seniors at the Duval County high school and all three have an interest in caring for animals that began when they were younger.
“I’ve always grown up around animals so that’s all I’ve ever known,” Canada said.
“I want to work with pets. It’s something I really want to do,” Cornley said.
“Caring for them, making sure the animal’s life is the best they can have has always made me happy,” Davis said.
The three students are enrolled in a diversity, equity and inclusion program that focuses on the field of veterinary medicine. The program was funded by a $10,000 grant that was donated to the Humane Society from the First Horizon Foundation. Under the program, the Humane Society partners with Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology to help students interested in a career in veterinary medicine, especially minority students. Humane Society administrators told News4Jax the program’s aim is to create paths for employment -- both in Jacksonville and in the fields of animal welfare and veterinary medicine -- for historically underrepresented populations.
A study conducted by the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care found that animal welfare predominantly employs white women.
Dr. Lisa Greenhill, M.P.A., Ed.D., senior director for institutional research and diversity at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, revealed that minorities only make up 8% of the veterinary workforce.
Dr. Shonte Bishop of Forever Vets Animal Hospital in Jacksonville is part of that 8%.
“Having professionals who look like people in the community is very important, especially from different cultural aspects of treating animals. Culturally, animals mean a lot of different things to different people,” Bishop said.
She also said most people decide to become veterinarians at a young age.
“But when there is lack of exposure to this medical field, it’s hard to know that the career option is even a possibility for them,” Bishop said.
Canada, Cornley and Davis will spend 250 hours at the Humane Society working directly with the veterinary team. As participants, they are required to learn and master multiple veterinary skills. The three ambitious young women said that so far, they are getting a lot of hands-on experience.
“We can do blood work like testing for different things. We’re actually allowed to do vaccinations also,” Canada said.
“Putting things in the system when it needs to go in, giving medicine,” Cornley said.
“I’m learning about different diseases animals may have,” Davis said.
“It is our desire to develop programming that will actively recruit and promote a more diverse population in the field of animal welfare, while also providing education and career training for youth in our community,” said Denise Deisler, CEO of JHS.
“To see and actually be a part of it and to do this while we’re in high school is really amazing for us,” Cornley said.
All three students enrolled in the program told News4Jax they would love to someday own their own veterinary practice.