The Drought of Black Veterinarians in America
Dr. Abigail Maynard, one of the only Black veterinarians in Minnesota, works at Highland St. Paul Pet Clinic. Originally from Barbados, Maynard graduated med school in 2017 from St. George’s University located in Grenada. Maynard recalls when she announced her aspiration to become a vet.
“My classmates laughed at me. And they're like, Oh, that's a white girl profession, like, why would you want to do that? And so it's labeled that way, because that's what it's been historically, and it is still a very heavily or white predominant profession, unfortunately.
Veterinary school in the United States can cost anywhere between $150-400,000. Maynard says that’s a significant barrier for most people of color:
“I know quite a few people who want to be a vet, but the sheer cost of vet school was just not feasible for them,” she said. “And then I think that culturally, it's not necessarily one of those professions that within the black culture, there isn't much known about it.”
In addition, Maynard says Black students often have a harder time qualifying for financial aid.
“There is a lot of support in place for white people to access the profession. They also tend to have more financial availability to go to vet school, or they are able to get better student loans to go to vet school,” she explained. “And so if you look at socio economic effects of systemic racism, all of those things kind of taper down into why more people of color aren't attending vet school.”
While Maynard was able to overcome the financial hurdles, she still struggled navigating the veterinary world. She says originally, she wanted to work with horses.
“I had a mentor who told me that as a Black female, I would never be successful in equine medicine, because equine medicine is primarily a prestigious, bougie type of thing, and that I would not fit the mold or the picture that equine clients would want from a veterinarian.”
Despite the racism embedded within the profession, Maynard has hopes that it will soon be more diverse. Currently, the veterinary field is suffering from an absence of doctors and vet technicians.
“We do not have enough beds for the animals that we have. And we don't have enough vet techs where the animals that we have and so every day there are pets that we aren't able to get to. And if we expanded what vet med looks like, there's a whole market of people out there that could change that that could bring more to the profession.”
The more diverse the profession gets, Maynard says, the better service it will be able to provide.