Three Million Dollar Grant Renews Funding for Purdue Program Expanding Access to the Veterinary Profession

Friday, September 1, 2023

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The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is receiving vital new federal support for an innovative program addressing a national shortage of veterinarians in public health and rural/food animal practice in Indiana and beyond, and a significant lack of underrepresented individuals entering the veterinary profession. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has renewed a five year, $3.2 million grant to further the success and impact of Vet Up!® The National Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) Academy for Veterinary Medicine.

A diverse mix of Vet Up! participant join for a group photo smiling into the camera with a horse standing in the middle.
2023 Vet Up! College participants take part in a hands-on session learning about equine medicine during the summer residential program.

Established with an initial HRSA grant in 2018, Vet Up! is designed to meet the goal of filling veterinary shortage areas with equity-minded individuals from underrepresented populations and rural areas. The program is based at Purdue, which has the only veterinary college in Indiana and is home to the Center of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine.  Vet Up! has leveraged PVM’s proven history of effective diversity programming and partnerships with high schools, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and state entities to design and deliver curricula that provide otherwise-inaccessible opportunities to students.

With the renewed grant funding, the Vet Up! National HCOP Academy for Veterinary Medicine will expand by taking a comprehensive approach to provide academic, experiential, financial, and social support to disadvantaged students. In clear alignment with the purpose of the HCOP, Vet Up! will pursue multiple objectives:

  1. Identifying and recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to competitively enter and complete college and university programs in veterinary medicine and other STEM fields;
  2. Preparing students from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete preliminary education requirements and provide academic and social support to prepare them for competitively entering and completing a veterinary professional degree program;
  3. Providing comprehensive bridge programming to disadvantaged students who are enrolled as DVM degree candidates to enable a successful experience in rigorous professional veterinary education programs;
  4. Providing academic, financial, social, and wellness support to veterinary students from disadvantaged backgrounds to facilitate timely completion of their veterinary education and graduation with their DVM degree; and,
  5. Implementing an integrated, comprehensive evaluation process that monitors and informs progress and outcomes of program participants, Vet Up! components, and the overall project, through a longstanding partnership with Purdue University’s Evaluation and Learning Research Center.

The Vet Up! program includes the following components. 

  • Vet Up! Champions combines face-to-face and interactive online learning to provide a 12-month structured curriculum to an annual cohort of 26 participants consisting of high-school juniors/seniors, adult/nontraditional learners (including veterans), and undergraduate students.
  • Vet Up! DVM annually provides five disadvantaged DVM students with social, academic, and financial support through structured activities that span the four-year-long curriculum to guide and mentor them to timely graduation with a DVM degree.
  • Vet Up! College – the HCOP summer program – is a six-week-long immersive, structured program at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine for 26 undergraduate students annually that prepares students to be competitive in the DVM applicant pool.
  • Vet Up! Prep – the HCOP pre-matriculation program – is an annual four-week residential program for 10 students prior to the start of the fall semester of the Purdue Veterinary Medicine program that bridges gaps involving challenging PVM courses, study skills, and an understanding of the concept of One Health.

Completion of Vet Up! College is required to be eligible for the DVM Scholars program.

“With the renewed grant funding, Vet Up! will continue leveraging PVM’s long-standing partnerships with high schools, HBCUs, and state entities to develop and implement curricula that provide new opportunities to students,” said Marsha Baker, assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and the principal investigator on the grant. 

Central to achieving the overall program goal associated with the renewed grant, Vet Up! also will provide opportunities for community-based experiential health professions training, emphasizing experiences in underserved communities through three objectives: 

  1. Collectively developing and implementing Vet Up! student projects that impact an underserved community;
  2. Enabling Vet Up! students to conduct research projects that focus on One Health and health equity initiatives that are led by PVM faculty and campus partners; and,
  3. Providing an experiential learning opportunity in an underserved community for Vet Up! College and Vet Up! Prep participants by collaborating with community and state partners. 

“With these components interwoven as one, Vet Up! will create an equity-minded, diverse veterinary workforce with the medical and social expertise needed to solve complex healthcare problems,” Mrs. Baker said.

Purdue Veterinary Medicine Dean Willie Reed said the renewal of the grant funding is wonderful news that will bring hope to many more outstanding future veterinary professionals who, apart from Vet Up!, wouldn’t realize there’s a place for them in veterinary medicine. “Since the inception of Vet Up! I have marveled as I have seen the eyes light-up in young people from diverse backgrounds as they experience the hope, support, and encouragement that this creative and inspiring program provides,” Dean Reed said. “It is so heartwarming to hear the Vet Up! participants describe how it was through this program that they realized there are successful veterinarians who look like them, and that the veterinary medical profession needs and welcomes students from all backgrounds. I am gratified every time I see students who realize that the dream I had years ago of becoming a veterinarian can come true for them just like it did for me.”

The successful grant request reflects the influence of letters of support contributed by Purdue University and other PVM partners, including Purdue Global, Purdue Polytechnic High School, the Indiana Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Network, the Indiana Board of Animal Health, and Dr. Jerome Adams, Presidential Fellow, executive director of Purdue’s Health Equity Initiatives, Distinguished Professor of Practice, and the 20th U.S. Surgeon General.

Vet Up! is an award winning program, having received multiple awards presented by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. This year marked the third time that Vet Up! has been recognized as a recipient of the magazine’s Inspiring Programs in STEM Award.

Click here for more information about Vet Up!

Writer(s): Kevin Doerr |

Category: Diversity, Our Impact

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