Clockwise: Kyndall Zieglowsky, MaryAlice Coulter, Devin James, Donald Gridiron, Dr. Tandi Nqwenyama, Dr. Troy Holder

Clockwise: Kyndall Zieglowsky, MaryAlice Coulter, Devin James, Donald Gridiron, Dr. Tandi Ngwenyama and Dr. Troy Holder (photos courtesy of each).   

In celebrating Black History Month, we asked our Black students, faculty and staff members to share their memories, experiences and hopes for the future of veterinary medicine. Here are the responses from those who participated. 

Kyndall Zieglowsky (D.V.M. ’23)

What was your first memory/experience of veterinary medicine?

I've always been drawn to animals ever since I was young. I can remember going to birthday parties and spending the whole time with the animals rather than interacting with the other children. However, it wasn't until I discovered my purpose on earth to save the elephants that led me to wanting to become a veterinarian.

What has the road to getting your veterinary degree been like as a Black student?

I want to go into the veterinary field of exotics/wildlife and conservation. Throughout my journey I have only met one Black doctor who worked with exotics and became my mentor and taught me everything I know about them. I grew up idolizing people like Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin, but I've never seen anyone who looks like me in that field of veterinary medicine, and I want to change that. I am going to be the woman who helps save the elephants!

What are your hopes and dreams for future Black veterinary students, veterinarians and faculty members in veterinary medicine?

My dreams are for the Black veterinary community to continue to break the statistics of representing just 2% of the veterinary community. I hope more and more people see people who look like themselves and become inspired to want to work with animals and follow their dreams.

MaryAlice Coulter (D.V.M. ’22)

What was your first memory/experience of veterinary medicine?

As corny as it sounds, I think my interest in vet med started when I was eight or nine. I had a pet duck (yes, a duck) named Sam who had a misshapen leg, and I became obsessed with trying to help him. There wasn't anything our vet could do for him, and he got around just fine, but this started my interest in vet med and probably is why I'm now interested in orthopedics!

What are your hopes and dreams for future Black veterinary students, veterinarians and faculty members in veterinary medicine?

My hope for Black veterinarians — both in school and out in practice — is that people respect our expertise. I believe that, as with everything, a diversity of experiences brings a unique perspective to veterinary medicine. As Black vets and veterinary students our perspective is valuable, and our training and knowledge should not be overlooked simply because our skin color is so underrepresented in the field.

Devin James (D.V.M. ’23)   

What was your first memory/experience of veterinary medicine?

My first experience in vet med was my interview for a receptionist position at a local vet hospital. Part of the interview included an assessment of my current veterinary knowledge. I pretty much bombed it, but that encouraged me to want to learn and gave me a baseline to see how far I had come later on.

What has the road to getting your veterinary degree been like as a Black student?

The road to vet school, like most, was filled with uncertainty. One thing that specifically made me uneasy was the alarmingly low percentage of Black students and doctors in the vet field. Thankfully since being here at Oregon State, I have always felt welcome and never out of place.

What are your hopes and dreams for future Black veterinary students, veterinarians and faculty members in veterinary medicine?

I want to be an inspiration for others to chase their dreams. I want future Black students to know that there is no limitation to what we can do. One day I hope there won’t be any hesitation or self-doubt solely because the color of our skin. Dare to dream.

Donald Gridiron (D.V.M. ’21)

What was your first memory/experience of veterinary medicine?

I actually didn't want to be a veterinarian until I was 24. As a kid, I always wanted to host an educational TV show about animals like Zoboomafoo or the Jeff Corwin Experience. Animal Planet was my life, but it also led to my well known fear of frogs.

What has the road to getting your veterinary degree been like as a Black student?

In my community, I am one of the few people that really deals with animals heavily so most people know me as the animal guy. I have been told stories from parents about how their kids want to be vets and they show them my pictures to show that they can do it too. I've become somewhat of a role model without asking, but its pretty cool to be a beacon in the community.

What are your hopes and dreams for future Black veterinary students, veterinarians and faculty members in veterinary medicine?

I hope to provide Black kids and students more experience with animals and veterinary care. I don't necessarily need them to all become vets, but I want to increase the exposure of my community to animals and veterinary medicine. Increased education also makes my job easier.

Dr. Tandi Ngwenyama, D.V.M., ACVECC, Clinical Assistant Professor, D.V.M. Diplomate, ACVECC, Emergency and Critical Care

What are your hopes and dreams for future Black veterinary students, veterinarians and faculty members in veterinary medicine?

I hope:

  • for real transformative change.
  • to re-imagine what veterinary medicine looks like in the 21st century.
  • to leverage diversity as a great asset; incorporate social justice pedagogy into our veterinary educational system.
  • that our communities will thrive and be able to reach their full potential.
  • to create a culture of curiosity, caring and kindness.

Troy Holder, D.V.M., ACVS, Assistant Professor of Large Animal Surgery

What was your first memory/experience of veterinary medicine?

Visiting my grandfather’s farm in Barbados. I was fascinated by the vet coming to treat the cows.

What has been your experience being a Black veterinarian and faculty member?

It has been a challenge. Being raised in a country where I was in the majority and never felt inferior or had limits on my potential — very different reality in North America.

What are your hopes and dreams for future Black veterinary students, veterinarians and faculty members in veterinary medicine?

That we would be seen as capable and competent members of the community.