Dean Willie Reed Receives Inaugural AVMA Award for Lifetime Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Friday, December 15, 2023

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When the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) established the Frederick Douglass Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023 to recognize distinguished leadership in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the veterinary profession, one nominee stood out as an especially fitting choice to be the inaugural recipient. That person is Dr. Willie Reed, dean of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Teller and Dean Reed stand together smiling as Dean Reed holds up his award.
Dean Willie Reed is joined by the AVMA President, Dr. Lori Teller, at the 2023 AVMA Convention in Denver, Colorado where he received the inaugural Frederick Douglass Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished leadership in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the veterinary profession (Photo courtesy of the AVMA)

Dean Reed was selected by the AVMA Board of Directors to receive the award, which was presented July 14 at the AVMA annual convention in Denver, Colorado. The Frederick Douglass Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an AVMA member veterinarian who has made significant contributions to the veterinary profession through innovative and transformative leadership in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, and who has demonstrated a commitment to advancing these values within the veterinary profession and has brought honor and distinction to the field through exemplary efforts.

The award’s namesake and Dean Reed both are notable figures in the field of veterinary medicine who share similarities. As Black veterinarians who hail from the South, they both have lived out a commitment to fostering opportunities for underrepresented groups within the veterinary profession. Both Drs. Patterson and Reed also had a connection with Tuskegee University during their formative years, albeit through different avenues.

While he was the university’s president, Dr. Patterson helped establish what is now known as the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, which opened in 1945. Dr. Reed earned his veterinary degree at Tuskegee 33 years later and embarked on a career that led to the veterinary deanship at Purdue, where he has promoted an inclusive culture and created opportunities for underrepresented individuals not only at the veterinary college, but also in the profession as a whole.

“Much like Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson, your steadfast commitment has allowed you to bring about meaningful change and establish a strong foundation for DEI at Purdue University and in the profession,” Dr. Janet Donlin, the AVMA’s Executive Vice President and CEO, wrote to Dean Reed when she informed him of his selection as the inaugural award recipient. “Your innovative mindset and visionary leadership have propelled veterinary medicine forward in the realm of DEI.”

When the AVMA announced the establishment of the new honor and invited nominations last April, the AVMA President, Dr. Lori Teller noted, “We want to recognize member veterinarians who have made significant contributions to the veterinary profession through advancing DEI. There is no better way to do this than by bestowing an annual award named after Dr. Patterson, who was such a visionary leader.”

In accepting the award, Dean Reed said that as a graduate of the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, there is no greater recognition than to receive an award in honor of Dr. Patterson, who also founded the United Negro College Fund. “So without Dr. Patterson — his vision, his tenacity in starting a college of veterinary medicine, my dream of becoming a veterinarian probably would not have come true,” Dean Reed said.

Dean Reed’s influence and impact is reflected in the tangible increases that have occurred in Purdue Veterinary Medicine’s diversity. When he became dean in 2007, underrepresented minority (URM) students accounted for 5.4 percent enrollment across all four years of Purdue’s veterinary program. Today, because of intentional recruitment and retention efforts, Purdue has 29.2% URM enrollment across all four years, and 205 URM veterinary students have graduated between 2008 and 2023.

Those efforts, developed under Dean Reed’s leadership, include:

  • Being awarded $136,000 in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to create the Multicultural Scholars Program to support recruitment and retention of URM veterinary students.
  • Receiving a five-year, $3.18 million award in 2018 from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration to support the Vet Up! National Health Careers Opportunity Program Academy for Veterinary Medicine. The program’s goal is to fill veterinary shortage areas with individuals from underrepresented populations and rural areas.
  • Leading a collaborative effort resulting in the publication of the first book on diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine, “Navigating Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine,” in 2013.
  • Establishing a partnership in 2014 among Purdue, the AVMA, and the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) to establish the first Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine, which offers online certificate programs in diversity and inclusion for veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary nurses, educators, and veterinary students.
  • Growing Purdue’s Science Education Partnership Award program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, to engage under-resourced children in veterinary medicine. Purdue leads teams of veterinary role models in the League of VetaHumanz program across the country who partner with community organizations and schools to support under-resourced elementary school children through mentoring and delivering veterinary lessons.
Dean Reed speaks from a podium at the AVMA Convention
Dean Willie Reed was recognized as the inaugural recipient of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Frederick Douglass Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award during the association’s House of Delegates meeting at its annual convention.

Drs. Sandra San Miguel, associate dean for engagement, and S. Kathleen Salisbury, associate dean for academic affairs at the college, both nominated Dean Reed, emphasizing the importance of the college’s strategic planning process that he has utilized to guide the college throughout his tenure as dean. They wrote: “Strategic plans don’t get dusty at Purdue. We are currently on our third strategic plan, led by Dr. Reed, each affirming the college’s values, culture, and commitment to promote a collegial, diverse, and supportive work and learning environment enhanced by diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, career goals, socioeconomic background, educational background, and geographic background. The college’s strategic plan is further bolstered by a strategic plan specifically focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Under Dean Reed’s leadership, the College of Veterinary Medicine has received the national Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award multiple times (2017, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023) from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, a publication focused on advancing best practices in DEI in higher education. In 2021, the college was further honored with the Diversity Champion Award — the first time the publication named a veterinary college as an award recipient — for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Diversity Champions are typically institutions known for visionary leadership, that serve as role models and set the standard for thousands of other college campuses striving for inclusive excellence. These institutions are recognized for exemplifying an unyielding commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout their campus communities, across academic programs, and at the highest administrative levels.

Among his many honors, Dean Reed has received multiple awards and recognition specifically for his accomplishments in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, including an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, in 2018, “For his powerful advocacy on behalf of groups underrepresented in veterinary medicine and for his leadership in veterinary medical education and research.” In 2017, he was honored as a recipient of the Purdue University Title IX Distinguished Service Award, “For providing local and national leadership on issues related to gender equity in education at all levels,” and in 2015 he received the Purdue Dreamer Award, “For a lifetime of work, demonstrating an active commitment, advocacy, and application of the principles of equality, excellence, and social responsibility that reflect Dr. King’s vision of service to others and his dream of equality for all.” He also was honored in 2011 by the AAVMC as the recipient of the Iverson Bell Diversity and Inclusion Award, which is given in memory and recognition of Dr. Iverson Bell’s outstanding leadership and contributions in the promotion of diversity in veterinary medical education.

Click here to see the Frederick Douglass Patterson award story published by the AVMA, which includes a video clip from Dean Reed’s acceptance speech.

Writer(s): Purdue Veterinary Medicine News

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association

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