A newly created endowed scholarship fund at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will provide financial aid to veterinary students from underrepresented groups. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 8 percent of veterinarians in the United States are people of color, and less than 1 percent are Black. The Hoban, Lee, and Dance Endowed Scholarship Fund was created to support diversity within the college and within the veterinary profession at large. 

"That’s the focus of this scholarship: to create a unique opportunity for underrepresented students and ensure that the college has the important opportunity to learn from the viewpoints of underrepresented students who might not otherwise apply or attend," said Dan Givens, dean of the veterinary college.

The Hoban, Lee, and Dance Endowed Scholarship Fund is named after the first Black female graduates, who both graduated the same year, and the first Black male graduate. The college was created in 1980, and graduated its first Black students six years later: Lynne Hoban and Margie Lee. Mario Dance earned his D.V.M. in 1990.

Lynne Hoban earned her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and planned to attend the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. She chose to attend the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in part because of the difference in tuition costs between the two universities.

Hoban took a position as a general practitioner in Maryland after graduation, but soon won a fellowship at the Naval Medical Research Institute. She collaborated with other researchers to develop an animal model to study septic shock in humans. After three years, she returned to private practice and has worked in clinics all over the Southwest. In 2005, she opened her own practice in Arizona, the Friendship Pet Hospital. 

“The veterinary education that I received at VMCVM was very well rounded and diverse. I was prepared for a research position, clinical practice, and employment in a referral practice. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced all three aspects of the veterinary medical field,” Hoban said.

Lee earned her bachelor’s in biology and doctorate of veterinary medicine from Virginia Tech, then earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in medical microbiology from the University of Georgia. She went on to teach and conduct research as a professor at UGA for over 25 years. In 2018, she joined the college’s faculty as a professor and department head in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. 

Lee said that veterinary school sparked her passion for microbiology.  

“I was a competent microbiology technician in a laboratory at Virginia Tech, but learning about pathogens and animal diseases in vet school stimulated me to seek additional training,” Lee said. 

Though Lee learned a lot, work kept her from taking full advantage of her education: “For the most part, if I wasn’t studying, I was working, and I missed many opportunities to participate in clinical learning opportunities as a freshman and sophomore vet student. A scholarship like this would have allowed me to reduce my college loan debt and provided time to get involved in an outside veterinary activity.”

Dance wanted to be a veterinarian from a very young age and went to Virginia Tech as an undergraduate in biochemistry/nutrition with the goal of attending VMCVM. During the pursuit of his undergraduate degree, Dance felt that the cost of attending veterinary school would get in the way of pursuing his dream. He found himself ineligible for the few scholarships he could find. However, the financial aid office helped him secure a student loan, and Dance worked excessive hours during summers to help cover the rest of the costs. 

“It was worth it, however. The teachers at the vet school did a wonderful job of teaching me skills and giving me knowledge that enabled me to function successfully as a vet in both the companion animal and the lab animal sectors,” Dance said.

After veterinary school, Dance began his career in private practice, and after five years entered lab animal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. While there, he served as a consulting lab animal veterinarian, providing animal care and research guidance for several research institutions including the Veteran’s Administration, Virginia State University, Randolph-Macon College, and the University of Richmond. He retired from VCU in 2021, but still serves his consultant institutions.

Looking back, Dance said, “The education and the support that I received at VMCVM was top notch, and I am always proud to recommend the school to those who are inclined in that direction. The only regret that I had was in relation to the available financial support for people like me.”

The Hoban, Lee, and Dance Endowed Scholarship Fund has received wide support from the college community, and all of the college’s living deans have made pledges to support the fund. 

At the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony in May, class president Shawn Kozlov presented the class gift of more than $5,300 to the Hoban, Lee, and Dance Endowed Scholarship Fund.

At its current rate of pledges, the scholarship fund will be fully endowed in five years. Givens said that with more gifts, the scholarship fund can grow and begin to support students faster. 

This endowment represents the college’s long-term commitment to diversity and inclusion and its dedication to give veterinary medicine a more diverse future.

— Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

Share this story