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How representation and mentorship impacted my pre-veterinary career

INSTAGRAM @DogtorShonna   
De’Shonna Jones is a 2019 graduate from the illustrious Southern University and A&M College, where she obtained her B.S. in Agricultural Sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine. She is an incoming first-year veterinary student at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. De’Shonna’s interests are in small animal general practice as well as shelter medicine and one health. She hopes to obtain her MPH while in veterinary school. In her free time De’Shonna enjoys playing with her dog (@AyceTheDog), spending time with her family, and playing scrabble. To keep up with De’Shonna and her veterinary journey connect with her on social media.

I met a Black veterinarian for the first time when I was eighteen years old. Yes, you read that correctly. Throughout my entire job shadowing experience and Allied Health volunteering, I did not see anybody that looked like me doing what I dreamed of doing until I got to college (which happened to be an HBCU). This was an unsettling feeling and I began to wonder if this was the right profession for me; not because I did not have a passion for it, but because I thought I was not good enough to pursue it.

Representation of Black veterinarians in the profession matters. The fact that Black people represent only two percent of the veterinary community speaks volumes. This needs to change and it starts with providing mentorship to the ones who want to be in the room and those who are already there.

I had no proper mentorship prior to college. I knew I wanted to go to veterinary school and become a veterinarian, but I did not know which route to take or who to seek to actually get there. The lack of mentorship for the Black community in veterinary medicine is a barrier that is not talked about enough. When approaching a majority white profession it can be intimidating for a POC to feel like they belong and even more challenging for them to get their foot through the door. I believe mentorship is the key to that door and to many other rooms inside of the building.

Although I did not have mentorship in high school, I was blessed to have it in college. My mentor’s name is Dr. Renita Marshall, and she is also the first Black veterinarian I met. Her guidance throughout my pre-veterinary journey is what got me to where I am today. Having a Black veterinarian I could reach out to and pick the brains of was motivating and inspiring. I wanted to be like her and nothing was going to stop me. She was somebody who personally took me and two other students to a veterinary medical symposium at Tuskegee University to show us that our possibilities are endless. It was the first time I had ever been to a veterinary school and I honestly was moved to tears seeing all the Black people who passed by me in white coats.

Through her mentorship I was provided with so many opportunities I would not have obtained on my own. She put me in contact with other veterinarians and from there I got my first internship. She became my research advisor and I got my first publication on the topic of One Health and I now have a strong passion for the human-animal bond and want to continue learning about that throughout veterinary school.

Overall, I simply had somebody to talk to and reach out to in times of need. Somebody who had my back and pushed me to become the best version of myself. So, when applying to veterinary school I felt like I was prepared and had the confidence I needed to actually submit it. At the end of the day I feel so blessed to say I got accepted into my top three vet school choices and will be attending the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri! This all happened because of faith, hard work, and mentorship that guided me along the way.

I hope my story of how mentorship helped me to continue to pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian helps somebody else who is in the same position as me. My advice is to reach out to your local veterinary clinics or even your school’s professors; the worst that can happen is they will say “no.” If you do not take a chance on yourself, you are limiting the possibility of somebody taking a chance on you.

If you are looking for Black veterinarians in your area or just to talk to somebody who might understand you, reach out to @BlackDVMNetwork on Instagram or www.blackdvmnetwork.com for more resources. Never let anyone dim your light, you are here for a reason—remember that.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

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