The Pawsibilities are endless: A young veterinarian works to increase diversity in the profession

A career in veterinary medicine is possible for anyone.

That’s the message Pawsibilities Vet Med cofounder Valerie Marcano, DVM, PhD, intends to spread to young people from underrepresented backgrounds who, although interested in veterinary medicine, may have thought that a lack of diversity in the field was a barrier to their dreams.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) defines people from underrepresented backgrounds as people whose advancement in veterinary medicine has been impacted due to legal, cultural, or social climate impediments in the US, specifically by gender, race, ethnicity, geographic, socioeconomic, and educational disadvantages.

According to the most recent figures from the AAVMC, of the 13,323 veterinary students studying at US veterinary schools in 2019, 19.6% were from historically underrepresented populations in veterinary medicine. That figure was up 1.1% from the previous year.

Marcano, who identifies as Afro-Latina and grew up in the Dominican Republic—where her mom is also a veterinarian—thinks we can do better.

That’s why she cofounded Pawsibilities Vet Med with her husband, Seth Andrews, PhD. A nonprofit website and social network, Pawsibilities aims to recruit students from diverse backgrounds to enter the veterinary profession and connect them to opportunities and potential mentors and advisers within the field. The site:

  • Pairs mentors and mentees by using an algorithm that weighs the things both parties consider important in a mentor-mentee relationship
  • Provides a venue for in-person and virtual networking opportunities with preveterinary students, veterinary students, and veterinarians
  • Supplies education on careers in veterinary medicine

The mentoring process is perhaps the most important aspect.

Marcano, who received her DVM and PhD degrees from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017 and 2020, respectively, believes that mentorship is essential to any career, but particularly in veterinary medicine.  

Per the Pawsibilities website, “A great mentor can inspire and elevate someone to new heights for everyone’s betterment, while a poor supervisor kills dreams in [the] cradle. Despite this critical importance to a profession, there are shockingly few resources devoted to developing mentorship skills in veterinary medicine.”

When she’s not busy encouraging young people to enter the veterinary profession, Marcano works as a poultry veterinarian in North and South Carolina. She’s also the chair of the first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the American Association of Avian Pathologists.

As Marcano says on her website: “Anyone from anywhere can be a veterinarian.”

Marcano not only believes that—she’s dedicated to making it happen.

Photo credit: © skynesher/E+ via Getty Images