Total Pageviews

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Tribute to African-American Deans in Veterinary Medicine

Posted February 27, 2012
Written by Donald F. Smith, Cornell University

My final blog for February is a celebration and tribute to African-American veterinarians who are currently deans of U.S. veterinary colleges, or have recently served in that capacity.  At a time when fewer than three percent of the veterinary students in the United States are African-American, three of our 28 veterinary colleges are currently led by African-American deans.

Current deans of veterinary medicine (L-R): Willie M. Reed (Purdue), Phillip D. Nelson
(Western University of the Health Sciences) and Tsegaye Habtermariam (Tuskegee).
Photo by the author, 2011

Dr. Willie M. Reed, dean of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was raised in Alabama and received his DVM from Tuskegee University in 1978, and PhD from Purdue in 1982. He served as an avian pathologist on the faculty at Purdue, then became director of Michigan State University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (now called the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health). An accomplished scientist, administrator and champion of diversity, Dr. Reed was attracted back to Purdue as dean in 2007, where he has served both the college and the greater veterinary community with distinction. He is past president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The dean of newest veterinary college in the U.S. at Western University of the Health Sciences is Phillip D. Nelson, DVM, PhD. A 1979 veterinary graduate of Tuskegee University with his PhD from North Carolina State University (1993), Dr. Nelson established a career that included research on a feline model for human HIV infection. He held senior administrative positions at Tuskegee University and at Mississippi State’s veterinary college before moving to Western in 2005 and becoming the college’s second dean in 2007. Dr. Nelson is a strong proponent that each student should develop a positive moral compass, and practice the profession with compassion and decency.

Dr. Tsegaye Habtemariam’s journey to becoming Tuskegee’s Dean of Veterinary Medicine and Nursing and Allied Health in 2006 began in his home country of Ethiopia where he received his B.Sc. in 1964. His passion to become a veterinarian led him to the U.S. where he received this DVM from Colorado State University in 1970, and advanced degrees (MPVM and PhD) from the University of California at Davis. Dr. Habtemariam has a distinguished research record in risk analysis with a focus on diseases of agricultural species like Food and Mouth Disease and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (often referred to as “mad cow disease”). He has held numerous prominent international assignments of significant importance to disease surveillance and control.

Dr. Michael Blackwell, veterinary dean,
the University of Tennessee (2000-2007).
Photo provided by Dr. Blackwell

Dr. Michael J. Blackwell was the first African-American to serve as dean of a veterinary college outside of Tuskegee. A second-generation veterinarian—his father was in the second graduating class at Tuskegee—Dr. Blackwell was appointed dean of the veterinary college at the University of Tennessee in 2000 after having been Chief of Staff of the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States.

Dr. Blackwell served as dean with distinction for seven years when he left the university to form The Blackwell Group, a management and venture-capital corporation.

Dr. Smith invites comments at