Latinx Veterinary Medical Association Chapter creates a home away from home
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Latinx Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) chapter brings together people from across the college.
“The LVMA was created to help our community get together, celebrate, and highlight Latinx/Hispanic culture," said chapter president Gabriela Miranda-Rivera, a member of the DVM Class of 2024.
One of the chapter’s main goals is to increase visibility of the Latinx/Hispanic community in veterinary medicine. Last fall, for example, its members organized Hispanic Heritage Month events and a Día de los Muertos display in the college’s commons.
Despite the fact that about 60 percent of Latinx/Hispanic households in the United States own pets, 0.5 percent of veterinarians are Latinx/Hispanic according to a 2022 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"It's no secret that the Latinx/Hispanic population doesn't make up a big portion of veterinary medicine, so as students, by increasing the visibility and getting the word out into the community, we hope to encourage middle and high school students to know that they can also be in this position one day," said Ana Ryan, a DVM student in the Class of 2024 and the chapter’s vice president.
With so few veterinarians from their background, many Latinx veterinary students are forced to be trailblazers, navigating the field by themselves.
This is where the LVMA chapter comes in. Though it can be a challenge to coax veterinary students away from their studying, the chapter has formed a community of support. Beyond that, the chapter connects students with scholarships for Latinx/Hispanic students.
The chapter puts on events such as trivia nights, lunch and learns, and panels where Latinx/Hispanic faculty speak on their experiences in the field and the challenges they’ve faced. The chapter’s potluck events are a great — and delicious — way for students of all backgrounds to share their cultures through food.
These events bring together Latinx students, faculty, and staff.
"Yes, it's about professional development, but it's also knowing you're not alone and having the support of the group. We want to get to a point where it's not unusual to see a Latinx veterinarian,” said Susana Diaz-Anderson, one of the chapter’s founders, a member of the Class of 2023.
The LVMA has members from across the United States and Canada and is built on four pillars: professional development, mentorship, outreach, and scholarship. The college’s chapter was chartered soon after the LVMA’s founding in 2020 thanks to executive board members Diaz-Anderson, Miranda-Rivera, Jonathan Escobar DVM '22, and Ally Ramirez of the Class of 2023.
Among the chapter’s goals are to develop a mentorship program to support new students, to celebrate more holidays, and to fundraise for nonprofits.
"It's just the beginning for this LVMA chapter, and it's so full of life and growth. We can go so many places. It brings so much to the school,” said Diaz-Anderson.