Helping Latinx students feel welcome in our profession

LMVA cofounder and president Yvette Huizar outside the
Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine

“When you don’t have role models to look up to who have backgrounds similar to yours, it can be challenging to really picture yourself succeeding in a field like veterinary medicine,” says veterinary student Yvette Huizar.

Born and raised in California’s Central Valley, Huizar is a first-generation Mexican American who hasn’t let a lack of role models stop her from pursuing her dreams—she’s currently finishing up her fourth year at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and has plans to work in emergency medicine when she graduates.

Huizar first noticed the lack of diversity in the profession as an undergraduate, when she worked as a veterinary assistant at three different hospitals in California. She said there was plenty of diversity in the support staff—but the veterinarians were predominantly White.

As a result, Huizar said she felt at home among the support staff, but struggled to build rapport with the doctors: “Even though they knew that I wanted to be a veterinarian, I didn’t feel like I had anyone really interested in helping me get to that goal.”

Fortunately, her dream of becoming a veterinarian took hold at a young enough age that she wasn’t deterred.

Then she got to Cornell.

“In my class of 120 [people], I think maybe 15 were Hispanic or Latinx,” she said. “And that’s actually pretty high compared to other schools, some of which are in the single digits.”

That lack of diversity inspired Huizar to cofound the Latinx Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) in February of 2020. She currently serves as president.

Huizar says the LVMA’s mission is to empower Latinx veterinary professionals and support the next generation of Latinx veterinarians. Some of their goals include increasing the visibility of current Latinx veterinary professionals, inspiring more students to become veterinarians, and promoting mentorship, as well as advocating on behalf of Latinx veterinary professionals and Latinx clients.

While Huizar doesn’t think mentorship by a successful professional with a similar background is a dealbreaker for veterinary students—she eventually found mentors (Latinx and non-Latinx)—she does think it is invaluable to students: “I do feel that there are certain struggles I’ve faced because I am a daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student,” Huizar said. “When someone else has those shared experiences, you’re able to connect to and be inspired by that person.”

Huizar is hoping that LVMA can help foster mentorship and encourage more diversity in the profession.

Although founded in February 2020, LVMA already has 14 chapters in the US. Among other things, LVMA has partnered with Pawsibilities, an online platform where veterinarians interested in mentoring and students interested in being mentored can find each other.

She knows it’s early days, but Huizar is upbeat about the LVMA’s potential to impact the profession. “I’m hopeful. I feel like my generation of veterinarians is a lot more proactive [about diversity and inclusion] and have a solid idea of what they want our profession to look like. We’re trying to create change in our profession, and we want to help others like ourselves who are trying to be part of it.”

Membership to the LVMA launches this summer! Get in contact with the team at [email protected] or visit their website to learn more.

Photo credit: © Trevor Haberkorn