K-State College of Veterinary Medicine recognized for excellence in diversity

The K-State veterinary school has multiple recruitment programs, including SPARK. Students in SPARK visit rural veterinary practices to learn about cattle health and rural veterinary methods (Photo courtesy of Callie Rost)

The INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine awarded the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award to the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine for the third consecutive year. 

Callie Rost, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the award is given to programs that take steps to increase support for diverse students. 

“It’s a way to be recognized for your commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus,” Rost said. “When I knew that main campus had been applying for it, I looked into it and found that they also give HEED Awards for health profession schools. Many medical schools are getting this award, and dental schools, but there really were not many veterinary schools getting that award.”

Rost said one way the veterinary school increased diversity is through recruitment programs. 

“We have several grants,” Rost said. “One is to recruit rural Kansas veterinarians or students interested in practicing in rural Kansas, and we call that SPARK. That’s the Summer Program for Aspiring Rural Kansas veterinarians.”

Lauren Dock, graduate in veterinary medicine, said she participated in SPARK. 

“We were able to go to a rural animal practice where we were able to see cattle being processed, vaccinated and checked for pregnancy,” Dock said. “We were also able to see how they practiced their companion animal side of everything by seeing surgeries, spays and neuters.”

Dock said SPARK helps potential veterinary students get exposure to exotic areas of practice. 

“The purpose of the program was to show us that there’s different backgrounds that people come from and get introduced to different areas of veterinary medicine … and there’s other ways to practice veterinary medicine than what we’ve seen in our clinics,” Dock said.

Rost said the veterinary school also supports diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging through student organizations.

“The other important part of … increasing the number of underrepresented students in veterinary medicine is the support when they are here,” Rost said. “We do have a lot of unique student clubs just for the students in the College of Veterinary Medicine.”

Cristina Marquez, graduate in veterinary medicine, said she is a co-founder of the K-State Latinx Veterinary Medical Association.

“As a part of the Latinx VMA, it is a chapter of a greater national organization of Latino veterinarians,” Marquez said. “The purpose is to empower other members of our Latino community to thrive and get them connected with resources within our profession.”

Marquez said participating in the Latinx VMA allowed her to find a community of like-minded people.

“It’s made me realize that there may be some more support and celebration for what each of us is individually than I originally realized, especially being at a place like Manhattan, Kansas, where you might come in and feel like that’s not celebrated,” Marquez said. “It gives me hope for the future, but there is always room to grow.”

Marquez said increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in veterinary medicine positively affects animals.

“Once you start working in the profession you realize it’s not always an inclusive profession and certainly not a diverse one in terms of race,” Marquez said. “You realize how that can impact animal care, how language barriers can be a problem and how we are making sure that we’re offering our great service and our profession to all communities out there.”

Rost said she wants underrepresented students to feel heard in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“What a lot of our diverse students will say is some people don’t even see veterinary medicine as an option for them because they’ve never met a veterinarian that looks like them,” Rost said. “That’s one area we’re trying to improve through our program.”