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Friday, February 27, 2015

Distribution of Ross and St. George's DVM Graduates in the United States

By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University (1)

Over 3,800 AVMA-member veterinarians have graduated from Ross University in St. Kitts and from St. George's University in Grenada since 1985 and 2003, respectively. (2)

As of this posting, 58% percent (2,224) of these AVMA-member veterinarians reside in the seven most populous states (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio), plus the three eastern states of New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts. The actual number is considerably higher because, as for other colleges, a significant number of graduates do not list any personal or professional information on the AVMA member site, and therefore we have no accessible record for where they reside and work.

The graph below shows the AVMA-member Ross and St. George’s graduates from the ten states listed above, ordered from the highest (New York), to the tenth (Massachusetts). Using New York State as the example, Caribbean graduates, shown in red, comprise 15.1% of the State's veterinarians. Cornell graduates (the in-state college for New York) comprise 32.4% of the total of 4,100 veterinarians, and slightly over half are graduates from neither Cornell nor the Caribbean schools.

Number of AVMA-member veterinarians from the ten states with the greatest number of Ross and St. George's graduates.  Also shown are numbers of graduates from the respective in-state college and other colleges.
Data from AVMA directory, February 2015
The total number of AVMA-members graduates from these ten states is shown in the following table, along with the number of graduates from the two Caribbean colleges, the veterinarians from the respective in-state colleges and graduates from other colleges.

In State 


In the absence of demographic data indicating the residence of the Ross and St. George’s students prior to matriculation, it is not possible to draw conclusions as to the proportion of veterinary graduates returning to their home state after receiving their DVM degrees.  That deserves further examination.

1. The author is a member of Ross University Board of Trustees.
2. Approximately 75% of these veterinarians are from Ross as it is the older school and also has more graduates each year than St. George's University. An additional 12 AVMA-member graduates of the University of the West Indies between 1998 and 2011 are not included in this study as that college is not accredited by the AVMA 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tuskegee's Dean Ruby Perry on Leadership

In honor of African-American History Month
By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University

Ruby Perry DVM, MS, DACVR is Interim Dean of
Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health

In a blog recently posted on this site(1), I described the five veterinary college deans who had graduated from Tuskegee University during the 1970s, and questioned what motivated such an impressive number to pursue positions in academic leadership.

Interim Dean Ruby Perry (Tuskegee 1977), a board-certified radiologist who spent her career at Tuskegee and Michigan State University, graciously allowed me to share her personal story. “I can’t tell it myself,” she explained, “because it’s too intensely personal, but perhaps you can write it for me. It’s a story that should be told and maybe it will help someone pursue a leadership position.” 

Ruby Perry, DVM, MS, DACVR
Interim Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Applied Health
Tuskegee University
(Photo by Tuskegee University)

Dean Perry acknowledged that many factors framed her personal and professional life.  “My journey involved risks," she said, and acknowledged with much gratitude her mother's admonition to seize the moment whenever it presented itself.  “Because you are Black,” her mother told her when she was in high school, “and because you are growing up in rural Mississippi in this civil rights era, you will only get an opportunity once.  Don’t let it pass you by.” Dean Perry elaborated,

I grew up in the Deep South in the small Mississippi town called Tougaloo, right across the street from a historically Black college by the same name. The college served as the base for gatherings and meetings of civil rights leaders visiting her area. The local community, of which my mother was a prominent member, provided refuge and food for the leaders, and supported their plans and their strategies to advance desegregation.

Though still a young girl, Ruby witnessed her mother’s passion and her unrelenting commitment to use the gifts and abilities that she had been given to help the cause. By her words and actions, Ruby’s mother indirectly “charted my life” by pushing her to take a leap of faith to make a difference toward the common good.

As the middle child of five, Ruby felt “boxed-in,” and that perhaps pushed her toward developing a spirit of independence. Though her siblings received the same opportunities for an education, Ruby’s mother perceived that she was different. She was highly inquisitive by nature and she had a desire to explore the world and its opportunities. Ruby’s mother encouraged her, putting her in a typing class that eventually helped her through college. Though Ruby would have preferred playing basketball like other children, “I got cut in the first round anyway”, so my mother’s decision turned out to be a fortuitous decision.

The defining event in Ruby’s teenage life was becoming one of the students chosen by her mother and other community leaders, in collaboration with local Civil Rights leaders, to officially desegregate the high school adjacent to the neighborhood where she lived. “I was pulled from my African American high school in Jackson, Mississippi, to be one of five African American students to enter the 10th grade in an all-white high school.”

Though the five students were unwelcome and had no social interaction with their white classmates, they all survived to graduation. There continued to be no association with the school whatsoever when they were unexpectedly invited to their 40th class reunion. Two of the five had died and a third could not be located.  Only Dr. Perry and one other former student attended what turned out to be an emotional conclusion to an untenable 40-year estrangement.

Many of my classmates remembered what we had endured and came up to us and apologized. The former school principal was even there and he made a special effort to meet with us to talk about those three years at his high school during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He also expressed remorse for how we had been treated by him and by others on his watch. The choir director, who had refused to allow us to join the school choir when we were in high school, invited us to sing in the Class Reunion Choir.  It was an extraordinary event.
Dr. Perry cited two other principal factors in her passion for leadership: mentors and friends. She ascribes to the notion that a circle of mentors is essential to an individual’s growth and development.  “I have many mentors who have not only motivated me, but provided guidance and afforded opportunities along my career journey”. She feels fortunate to continue to have a mentorship circle of those who believe in her and encourage her to be the agent of change for which she has the capacity, desire and interest. She singled out for special gratitude the women veterinary deans whom she had met at the recent deans’ meeting in Naples and to whom she felt a special kinship during their van drive from Naples to Orlando. In another dimension, she talked about the African American veterinary deans whose willingness to share their experiences and keep in touch with her means so much. 

Finally, Dean Perry recognizes the importance of true friends. “Though persons in this group are few,” she acknowledges, “they are long-lasting supporters.” In her development as a leader, friends who have helped her improve her self-awareness by giving honest and direct feedback without being judgmental, have been critical to her success.  

During a workshop on Women's Leadership I co-presented recently at St. George's University in Grenada, I described Dean Perry's admonition to seize opportunities and not let them pass by. Sitting in the front row was Dr. Annie Corrigan, a member of the faculty, who almost leapt from her seat as the picture of Dean Perry flashed on the screen.  Without hesitation, she turned to the assembled students in the rows behind her and told them how the former section chief of radiology at Michigan State University--Dr. Perry had spent 17 years at MSU--had mentored her years before. 

Mentee and mentor, receiving and giving, throughout her career.  Dean Ruby Perry has been more wave than ripple in the ever-expanding circle of mentoring and leadership.

1.  Smith, Donald F. Five Tuskegee University Veterinary Graduates from the 1970s Become Deans., January 15, 2015.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mentoring, With Gusto

In Memorium, Farish A. Jenkins 1940-2012

Guest author: Casey Cazer, Cornell DVM Class of 2016

Editor’s Note: This invited essay acknowledges the life contribution of mentors. The author, a third-year student at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine also presents it as a memorial tribute to her undergraduate advisor whom she considers to be an outstanding mentor.
Donald F. Smith

Casey Cazer, Cornell DVM Candidate 2016 
volunteering at the NY State Fair Dairy Birthing Center
(Photo provided by the author)

Education was once based on mentorship; it was about the relationship between teacher and pupil. Since Socrates and Plato, teachers and mentors were synonymous and students benefited from a combination of instruction and counseling. But as the number of people seeking secondary and higher education has increased, the mentoring relationship between teachers and students has been usurped by the need to disseminate as much knowledge as possible to as many students as possible. My favorite professor understood that mentorship is at the heart of teaching and the counseling and role-modeling that he gave to me were transformational to my career.

Dr. Farish A. Jenkins
(Photo provided by Maxbetter Vizelberg)

Farish A. Jenkins was an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist at Harvard University and was often assigned pre-vet advisees because there were no faculty veterinarians in the biology department. However, I was not discouraged by having an advisor outside of my field of study because it quickly became evident that Farish had much more to offer than a letter of recommendation for veterinary school applications.

Through sharing stories of his own work—expeditions to the Arctic, safaris in southern Africa, fitting together fossilized feet of dinosaurs—he opened my eyes to a world of discovery and inquiry. It was evident that innate curiosity was a driving factor in his work and contributed to his groundbreaking discoveries. The personal stories he shared made his work come alive, made it tangible such that I wanted to be a part of it.

An ex-Marine, Farish carried vodka and a rifle on Arctic expeditions, during which he and his collaborators would discover Tiktaalik roseae, the link between water and land vertebrates. But I knew him as a professor in an office with filing cabinets full of publications and fossils meticulously spread out on a table. For many months he had a dinosaur’s unarticulated foot on his desk. When I inquired about it, he explained that most museums were posturing the Plateosaurus incorrectly as a bipedal animal walking on its toes. Farish pointed out subtle contours of the metatarsal-phalangeal joint, demonstrating that the current posture resulted in a hyperextension of the joint. His observational finding contributed to a long-ranging debate among paleontologists and the plantigrade stance became more commonplace in museums. Over four years I heard many stories of discovery like that one, each challenging me to take on a larger role in the pursuit of new knowledge. Farish inspired me to strive to make a difference in the world, even if it is a small one.

Farish’s confidence in me surpassed my own self-assurance, which helped me to see how I could take my veterinary education above and beyond traditional veterinary careers. He always thought that I could do more, be more, than I did. With guidance and support he illuminated my full potential and it glittered at the end of a new road. Farish showed me that road and he would help me travel it.

He suggested summer research programs but also supported me in my quest for pre-veterinary experience at dairy farms and race tracks. When I wanted to study animal nutrition, Farish volunteered to help me with an independent study. But he actually knew nothing about animal nutrition, so once a week for a semester I taught him nutrition that I learned through a textbook and primary literature. I presented case studies on ketosis in dairy cows and Farish was fascinated. He said that he was thankful for my teaching and excited to have learned about a new topic, which he even used on an African safari that he led that year. His genuine enthusiasm was my reward.

This experience demonstrated to me that mentoring is a two-way relationship. The mentor cannot be expected to be the only party with something to give. A mentee’s contribution might be introducing an interest or hobby, teaching a unique topic, or sharing unique life experiences. Each mentoring relationship is unique, but the mentee must contribute more than just gratitude for the mentor’s advice and help because lasting, meaningful relationships can only be built on reciprocity.

Farish wasn't just a mentor, but also a sponsor. He connected me with opportunities both within and outside of Harvard. He used the full extent of his professional network to help me reach my goals. And he didn't stop with my admission to vet school. After I was accepted at Cornell, he reached out to friends here and helped form my early connections with Cornell's faculty.

I didn't really know what a mentor was, or could be, until I spent time with Farish. He always went above and beyond his formal responsibilities as my academic advisor. He praised my work and initiatives and demonstrated a sincere interest in my career and personal life. It was that personal connection that made our mentoring relationship meaningful--not just a "checking in" about academic progress or writing recommendation letters. Farish’s belief in me and his unwavering support continues to guide me along the road to my full potential. It is because of his unchecked enthusiasm for discovery that I found my passion for research. He also helped cultivate my aptitude for teaching. I will continue to strive for impact in everything that I do because that is what Farish would expect from me and I’m not going to let him down.

On June 4, 2012, Dr. Farish Jenkins shared this testament with students in his closing remarks at Harvard’s Great Transformations Symposium and Celebration:

“You will take joy in two things. These were the joys that have come in my life. Discovery. When discovery hits you, you’re looking at something and you don’t see it. Then all of the sudden you do see it…Those days will be days of your life’s highest elation…The other great happiness that is waiting for you as students is that you will become teachers….if you are good teachers you will convey your enthusiasm, your love, and your insight, so that all of the sudden you turn out classes of people who really appreciate the natural world of organisms... And this gives you great joy and gives them great joy and you suddenly realize that these students came to Harvard University for education and, by gosh, they didn’t get it from very many courses but they got it from you.”