ACF is proudly celebrating Black History Month through the stories of empowering pioneers in the field. We’ve chosen to highlight three highly accredited black veterinarians and their extraordinary contributions to society. Continue reading to learn about these figures and how they shaped the future of veterinary medicine.
Dr. Alfreda Johson Webb
Dr. Alfreda Johson Webb. Dr. Webb received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1949 from Tuskegee’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She was the first woman to receive her DVM from Tuskegee as well as one of the first black women to earn a DVM in the United States (along with Dr. Jane Hinton)! The two were also the first Black members of the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association, paving the way for the inclusion of many more black female veterinarians. Dr. Webb went on to become a professor at Tuskegee and later North Carolina State University, where she inspired many students. She was on the planning board for the new veterinary school at North Carolina State University that opened in 1981. Dr. Webb empowered and inspired black women to enter the field of veterinary medicine and she remains an inspiration to many to this day.
Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson
The American activist and educator Fredrick Douglas Patterson had a career with numerous trajectories, however his career roots stem back to veterinary medicine. In 1923, Dr. Patterson was the first black man to earn a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University. After a number of successful years as a veterinarian, the young academic went back for more school, earning a plethora of degrees from various institutions. Dr. Patterson’s greatest contributions pertain to the establishment of the United Negro College Fund and founding of the Tuskegee Institute (now University). Dr. Patterson was appointed president of the Tuskegee Institute in 1934; his leadership inspired black students to take charge in any and every field possible. He was a champion for human rights, equality and opportunity for all. A year before his death in 1987, Dr. Patterson was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His vision and courage continue to inspire others today.
Dr. Lila Miller
Dr. Lila Miller graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977. She has been extremely open about the racism she experienced as a student while enrolled there and the pressures put on her as one of the first two black women admitted to their under-graduate pre-vet program. Upon her graduation she decided to work in an animal shelter, something that at the time was unprecedented. Working with her mentor, Dr. Miller began to make incremental changes to improve the lives of the abandoned and forgot pets she was working with. As a result of these changes and the processes they developed, she had a dramatic impact on the reimagining of how shelters operate and the creation of a new specialty within veterinary medicine, shelter medicine. She taught the first course in shelter medicine at Cornell in 1999. Going back to the school that treated her so poorly was a challenge but one Dr. Miller chose to take on because of the potential good it might bring about. And she was right, soon after she taught the first course, other schools began to include shelter medicine in their curriculums. Dr. Miller continues to be a role model for many both because of her ability to overcome adversity and her work to improve animal welfare.
Written by: Gracie Butler and Heather Mains
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