2023 Vet Up! College Cohort Honored at Farewell Ceremony and Reception

Friday, July 14, 2023

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After four weeks of intensive study at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, members of the 2023 Vet Up! College cohort gathered for a ceremony and reception celebrating their success. Hosted by the college’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the event was held in the Joy M. Matson Multi-purpose Room in the David and Bonnie Brunner Small Animal Hospital Friday, June 16.

Designed as a six-week learning experience, the 2023 Vet Up! College program began Monday, May 22 in Lynn Hall and provided a variety of educational and informational sessions and hands-on labs. The farewell ceremony and reception marked the close of the students’ time in Lynn Hall, and the start of their clinical experiences, which they went on to complete during the final two weeks of the program at locations in their home communities. Geared toward rising college juniors and seniors, Vet Up! College is a residential summer program for disadvantaged college undergraduates to help prepare them to be competitive in the DVM applicant pool for admission to veterinary school.

Vet Up! participants sit opposite each other at a lab table looking through microscopes with additional participants working in the background.
Vet Up! College participants gain first-hand experience analyzing samples in a parasitology lab led by Dr. Sriveny Dangoudoubiyam, assistant professor of veterinary parasitology in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology.

This year marked the fourth time that the college has conducted the Vet Up! College program. A total of 26 students from more than 18 universities participated. With an average GPA of 3.62, the students came from across the country, representing Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The students benefitted from a variety of learning experiences and activities, including sessions covering anatomy, animal behavior, parasitology, clinical skills, large animal skills, emergency and critical care, neurology, pathology, and foreign animal disease case studies. Additionally, the students engaged in group projects and visited several farms and the Indianapolis Zoo. They also volunteered at a local animal shelter, engaged in career development, interacted with Purdue veterinary students, and completed the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate program.

Two of the participants, Sabrina Valdes and Jalynn Justice, spoke at the ceremony on behalf of their fellow participants and thanked all of the people at the college who made the program possible. Sabrina recalled the day she got the email notifying her that she had been selected as a participant. “At that moment tears flowed and emotions overcame me. This opportunity was a major step for a lifelong dream. It was an opportunity that promised to propel me to new heights,” Sabrina said. In addition to benefitting from the sessions covering various veterinary medical subjects, Sabrina said they also learned about the endless career possibilities that exist within veterinary medicine. “Through it all, we survived a demanding schedule with rigorous course-work. I’m immensely grateful for this opportunity because it has prepared me beyond my wildest imagination.”

A participant listens to a horse's abdomen while another participants holds the horse steady holding onto its harness and additional participants look on
A workshop led by Dr. Sarah Waxman, clinical assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences, taught Vet Up! College participants how to perform a physical exam on a horse.

Jalynn then described her experience, noting that this was not her first time being in Lynn Hall. About four years ago, as a high school student, she participated in the Ag Discovery program at Purdue, which gives students the opportunity to explore careers in a variety of fields including veterinary medicine. She remembered being assigned a mentor on her first day. “I thought he was just another undergraduate student like the others,” Jalynn recalled. “But he actually was a veterinary student. He was very open about his experience at Purdue and how much he enjoyed it. This served as an encouragement to achieve my dream of becoming a vet. Up until that program, and my interactions with my mentor, I had never met anyone in the field of veterinary medicine that looked like me. I knew at the time that less than two percent of veterinarians were Black. And I was concerned about the impact of being a minority in the field. I remember being worried about going to vet school and potentially being the only student of color in my class – the worry of having to be perfect and fear of judgement. But I was able to have that mentor from Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine change my whole perspective on the field.”

That’s also when Jalynn was introduced to the Vet Up! program. The following year she applied and was accepted to be part of Vet Up! Champions. “I was able to talk with veterinary professionals about the different careers in veterinary medicine, such as regulatory medicine, public health, government, and also current issues affecting the field. Another major component of Champions was advising.”

Veterinary student TA's hold up their certificates during the reception
Certificates of recognition were given to the veterinary students who served as TA’s for Vet Up! College (left-right): Aaron Gentry and Kyra Holt, of the Class of 2026, Myia Ratcliff, of the Class of 2025; and Wilnelys Tirado Negron, of the Class of 2026. Not pictured: Candis Hoskins, of the Class of 2025.

Jalynn is currently a rising junior at Rowan University pursuing a degree in environmental science, which she wants to use to help her gain an overall perspective on the issues affecting the planet. “In the past few years, I’ve grown to understand the need for there to be better communication between science and the general public, and that is where my journey continues,” Jalynn said. “Being selected for the 2023 Vet Up! College cohort and these last four weeks have been a dream. This experience has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of this field and the requirements needed to succeed.” 

Jalynn concluded by saying her story shows how the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine has been there every step of the way. “I stand before you as an aspiring veterinarian now even more confident that this is the field and the place that I want to be. I wish each of you the best as you continue in your journey and future career aspirations.”

Marsha Baker, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, expressed appreciation for the faculty and staff who helped with the Vet Up! College program, as well as the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion staff, and the Purdue veterinary students who served as teaching assistants. The TA’s lived in the dorms during the program to be available 24/7 and helped in a variety of ways, answering questions, providing encouragement, and assisting the participants in developing study strategies. The following students in the DVM Classes of 2025 and 2026 each received certificates of recognition for their leadership and mentorship as Vet Up! program TA’s: Aaron Gentry, Kyra Holt, Candis Hoskins, Myia Ratcliff, and Wilnelys Tirado Negron.

Next, Mrs. Baker recognized six Vet Up! College participants who received awards.

  • Sabrina Valdes received the Model Pre-vet Student Award, which is given for exemplary program candidacy through participation, demonstrating discipline, and maintaining a can-do attitude in the Vet Up! College program.
  • Savannah Fleming was presented with the Most Dedicated Award, in recognition of enthusiastic commitment by maintaining a positive attitude and demonstrating an eagerness to learn and excel in spite of any posed challenges in the Vet Up! College program.
  • Paris Jones received the Most Engaged Award, which recognizes the participant’s premier immersion through active participation, curiosity, and commitment in the Vet Up! College program.
  • Megan Munoz received the Most Collaborative Award in recognition of her active listening, logical rationale, respectfulness of others, and helpful participation in the program.
  • Jalynn Justice received The Extra Mile Award in recognition of her on-going commitment, participation, and engagement in the Vet Up! Champions and Vet Up! College programs.
  • Nailah Smith was presented with the Academic Excellence Award in recognition of her scholastic distinction by representing the core values of the Vet Up! College program, acing examinations, maintaining a positive attitude, and achieving high standards in her efforts to increase competency skills in veterinary medicine.
Marsha joins awardees as they pose with their award plaques wearing their Vet Up! white coats during the reception
Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Marsha Baker joins Vet Up! College award winners (left-right): Jalynn Justice, Sabrina Valdes, Paris Jones, Megan Munoz, Nailah Smith, and Savannah Fleming.

Another component of Vet Up! College is completing a capstone project. Participants were organized into seven groups and each group researched a particular topic before making their capstone presentation on the last day of the program. The ten-minute presentations were evaluated on a variety of factors, including the quality of the visual presentation, references, literature review, and the team’s poise in addressing questions. The winning team was that of Jade Bettigole, Alejandra Gomez, Christian Law, and Tamea Smith.

Mrs. Baker then honored each of the 26 program participants individually by announcing their names and calling them forward to receive their white coat and stethoscope as well as their certificate for completing the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate program. Following the ceremony, the participants gathered for a group photo and some candid pictures as they wore their new white coats, before joining the reception to enjoy refreshments and visit with each other, their TAs, and college faculty and staff.

Writer(s): Kevin Doerr | pvmnews@purdue.edu

Category: Diversity, Our Impact

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