The history of veterinary medicine is often marked with white men, but people from all races and genders have impacted our field in positive ways. In honor of Black history month, we wanted to profile a few Black veterinarians that have opened doors to the profession to others. With only 2% of the current field being Black, there’s always room for more diversity in the profession.
Augustus Nathaniel Lushington
Originally trained as an educator, Augustus Lushington lived and worked in his native Trinidad as a teacher and principal before moving to Venezuela to take a position as a clerk. Neither of these fully fit his interests, and he immigrated to New York at age 20.
After graduating with a degree in agriculture from Cornell, Dr. Lushington earned his DVM from the University of Pennsylvania in 1897, making him, along with Harvard graduate Henry L. Stockton, Sr., one of the first Black veterinarians in the United States.
His background in education and his passion for large animal veterinary medicine led him to a position at Bell Mead Industrial and Agricultural College in Rock Castle, Virginia.
He returned to private practice in the Lynchburg, VA, area. In addition to farm animal medicine, he also was a statistical reporter to the Bureau of Animal Industry and a meat inspector.
Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson
More than 30 years after Dr. Lushington’s groundbreaking entry into vet med, Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson changed vet med forever. With a DVM from Iowa State and a doctorate in philosophy from Cornell, Dr. Patterson became president of the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1935, and expanded the programs offered by the school to include culinary arts, engineering, and the famous aviation program. He founded the Tuskegee Institute’s Veterinary College in 1945.
To enable African-American students to take advantage of these rich educational offerings, he founded the United Negro College Fund, which now awards more than $83 million in scholarships.
Alfreda Johnson Webb
Dr. Webb was the first female graduate of the Tuskegee Veterinary College and, along with University of Pennsylvania graduate Dr. Jane Hinton, became one of the first female Black veterinarians in the US in 1949. She taught anatomy at Tuskegee, and then biology at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
She wasn’t just passionate about animals and education. Dr. Webb transitioned into politics, becoming the first African American woman in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Iverson C. Bell
Another 1949 graduate, this one from Michigan State University, that went on to make significant impact in veterinary medicine was Iverson C Bell. Dr. Bell was part of the early faculty of the Tuskegee Veterinary College, but transitioned to private practice in Terre Haute, IN. His dedicated professionalism led him to become the first Black person serving as Vice President of the American Veterinary Medical Association from 1971-1973.
Dr Bell wasn’t just a leader in the veterinary field. He was a leading figure in Terre Haute, involved with the school board, Red Cross, Rotary Club, tax authority, library board, and more. And to top things off, he was offered an ambassadorship to Nigeria during the Kennedy administration.
Dr. Bell’s legacy of service lives on in the AAVMC’s Iverson Bell Award, given to an individual that promotes diversity and inclusion in the veterinary field.
These doctors served their communities with professionalism and care, even in the face of blatant racism, and opened doors for future generations of veterinarians. We are proud to recognize their contributions.