Inspiring Tomorrow’s Veterinarians with Community Pathway Programs

April 17, 2024

Our initiatives aim to introduce young community members, including those from under-resourced backgrounds, to the field of veterinary medicine to inspire and show a path toward their future careers.

A group of seven College of Veterinary Medicine faculty and staff members pose together and smile.

The University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of veterinarians through community engagement pathway programs. Our initiatives aim to introduce young community members, including those from under-resourced backgrounds to the field of veterinary medicine to inspire and show a path toward their future careers. 

A boy around age 12 holds a yellow Lab puppy and smiles.

Secondary School Visits 

One example of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s commitment to fostering interest and diversity in the veterinary profession is a school visit organized by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. Middle and high school students at Baboquivari Secondary School in Topawa, Arizona, on the Tohono O’odham Nation, visited our college and received a firsthand peek into the world of veterinary medicine. Dr. Alberta Arviso, Senior Engagement Officer at CVM, who aided in building connections and plans leading to this exciting visit, reflected on this event by sharing,  

“[We wanted] to provide an opportunity for students and educators to gain knowledge and experience on how to get into veterinary medical school and gain insight into veterinary medical career options. The students and educators were delighted and grateful to learn about the academic requirements, the admission process, and the role of a veterinarian. The purpose of this school visit was in alignment with the missions of both Baboquivari Secondary School and our College, which are to educate the whole person and to develop career-ready individuals who can serve in their communities. In addition, we want to encourage diverse groups of students in our Tucson community to consider a career in veterinary medicine.” 

Through presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, the visiting students gained valuable insights into academic requirements, admissions processes, and the diverse career opportunities available in veterinary medicine. The visit included a tour of our main Oro Valley campus and the University of Arizona Campus Agricultural Center, allowing students and educators to see our didactic learning spaces and onsite teaching herds featuring cows, horses, and sheep. While at the CAC, Animal Care Manager Skyler Bentley and her team led the students in hands-on learning activities using the instructional animal models our VetCats utilize regularly. At the Oro Valley campus, students learned about histology from Dr. Sharon Dial, a Research Scientist at CVM. Direct contact with veterinary medical activities allows students to live out their passions and experience veterinary medicine in action. 

Central to CVM’s outreach efforts is our commitment to inclusion and diversity. Dr. Arviso discussed the importance of reaching out to under-resourced communities, emphasizing the role of early school outreach programs in attracting and exposing young people to veterinary careers. These initiatives introduce young students to a potential future for themselves and contribute to building a more diverse and inclusive future for veterinary medicine.  

Pathways to Veterinary Medicine 
Dr. Alberta Arviso sits at a table at a local school. With her is a display entitled "Want to Be a Vet?"

School visits are only part of a larger effort by the College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team to encourage diversity and inclusivity in veterinary medicine. The community pathway programs encompass a range of initiatives, including the League of VetaHumanzTM, a unique nationwide program created by the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine for kindergarten through fourth-grade students. The League of VetahumanzTM, funded by the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, aims to engage young children in STEM education by introducing them to veterinary medicine. Certified through the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, our Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine role model team of students, veterinarians, and staff, deliver the League’s STEM curriculum to local organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. Through these educational interactions, children gain valuable knowledge about a career field they might not have otherwise been exposed to and develop skills in communication, cultural humility, and animal welfare.  

When asked how outreach to under-resourced communities improves the field of veterinary medicine, Dr. Arviso said, 

“Early school outreach (K-12), community college, and Tribal college pathways are excellent opportunities to connect with people in our community. They attract and expose youth in our communities to careers in the veterinary medical profession, provide role modeling, and help diversify the field of veterinary medicine. They also build and sustain inclusivity in veterinary medicine as they recruit and retain future veterinarians who can be leaders in under-resourced communities. [It is important to] promote accessibility of veterinary medical services in under-resourced communities.” 

Looking ahead, CVM remains committed to expanding its outreach efforts and forging connections with schools and communities across Tucson and its surrounding areas. By extending pathway programs from kindergarten through twelfth grade, community colleges, and Tribal colleges, CVM seeks to create a lasting impact and inspire the next generation of veterinarians. 

Working with community partners, CVM is helping pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse veterinary medical field, where individuals come together to pursue their passion and make a meaningful difference in the lives of animals and communities.