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Lifting as we Climb

The celebration of Juneteenth isn’t new. The spotlight has become brighter over the past few decades. But why do we celebrate, why should we celebrate? How does this affect us in veterinary medicine today? Let's start at the beginning.

Origin Story

Ratified in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States abolished slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, it could not be carried out in places still under Confederate control. Slaves in the westernmost Confederate state, Texas, would not be freed until much later.

The emancipation proclamation was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. Juneteenth commemorates the date when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, on June 19th, 1865 announcing to enslaved Black people within the state they were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as a mashup of the month and date - Juneteenth.

Although this was the technical end of slavery in the United States, it was not the end of our struggle. But we still look to it as a date to rejoice. Celebrated by African-Americans as our second Independence day, generations have used the day, week, and month leading up to Juneteenth for food and fellowship.

Juneteenth embodies Black resilience, independence, and community. Looking at Juneteenth through the lens of veterinary medicine, our independence started in the 1940s.

Veterinary Medicine

Established in 1945, Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine (TUCVM) is the only veterinary school located at a historically black college or university (HBCU). It grew out of the need to educate African-Americans during a time when there were no other opportunities due to segregation. The TUCVM has educated more than 70% of the nation’s Black veterinarians since their first class of graduates in 1949(1). We give thanks to this group for their resilience and the birth of our veterinary community.

Sometimes it’s possible to believe we’ve come a long way. However, when the profession continues to make the lists of “Whitest Jobs in America” (2), it seems, maybe we haven’t. Data shows that approximately 2.2% of veterinarians in the US are Black. It is hard to believe you can be something you cannot see, so we must lift as we climb.

Our Renaissance

As we look to the month of June to celebrate, we can demonstrate our resilience with our own renaissance in vet med. Over the last 3 years, many veterinary professionals have moved beyond recognition of the problems in our profession and toward taking action to solve these problems. We’re proud to be part of this re-birth of vet med involving increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion; better mental health practices; increased accessibility to veterinary services; and advancements in medicine.

BlackDVM Network celebrates Juneteenth with an emphasis on Black history and empowerment, a tradition that began during the Civil Rights Movement when Juneteenth gained popularity. As a safer space for Black veterinary professionals, we believe successful professionals are core to the advancement of veterinary medicine. Our members embrace their culture and realize the value their uniqueness brings to our profession. We hope to help you grow personally and professionally while amplifying your voice and supporting you!

A time for us to learn, grow, and support each other, our quarterly summits bring together the community to discuss and problem-solve topics in vet med. The 2023 Juneteeth Summit: Renaissance will focus on what we can do to learn and support students and newer graduates as they have their own re-birth as veterinary professionals. The amount of knowledge to gain after veterinary and technician school is colossal. Finding the right practice, right mentors, and right speciality is key to being professionally confident and fulfilled. All this must be coupled with personal fulfillment.

The Summit

The Juneteenth Summit: Renaissance, The Re-birth of a new grad will host industry leaders as they guide us through:

  • what to expect during the transition from a student to a professional including the first 3 years out

  • Importance of setting aside time for wellness and why is important for a successful career

  • how to use BlackDVM Network as your support team

Renee Machele, Paul Diaz, and Drs. Laci Taylor, Souci Louis, Chelsea Facison, Tierra Price, and Addie Reinhardt will lead our summit discussions to help you or help your mentee to thrive within veterinary medicine.

Click here to register for the Juneteenth Summit. Take a moment to share the link with your classmates and colleagues.

BlackDVM Network is looking forward to hosting members and guests to this unique celebration of Juneteenth.

Being thankful for where we are is a comfortable place to be, but let's continue to live the celebration of Juneteenth, support our community and Lift as We Rise.

About BlackDVM Network

BlackDVM Network is a safer space for Black veterinarians, technicians, and assistants to connect, learn, and empower one another. We provide a community for Black veterinary professionals to advance their careers and access economic opportunities. We believe successful veterinary professionals are core to the advancement of veterinary medicine.

About the Author

Leslie Ferguson, RVT, BA is the Director of Marketing and Communications for BlackDVM Network. She is a President-Elect of the Purdue University CVM Alumni Board. She has worked in private practice in Indiana and Kansas. Leslie has previously served in various marketing roles for Boehringer-Ingelheim, Merck, and Merial.


Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine

U.S. Bureau of labor statistics

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