PennVet | Fighting Another Public Health Crisis
New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
Emergencies & Appointments:
Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA

Fighting Another Public Health Crisis

Published: Nov 19, 2020
Fighting Another Public Health Crisis

In 2020, two public health crises – COVID-19 and racism — converged, laying bare the truth about inequity in the U.S. The recent, fatal shooting of West Philadelphia’s Walter Wallace, Jr., and the senseless pattern of assault and death on the many Black lives before and after him, as well as COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, and Native communities, sparked global outcries for all Americans to address pervasive and systemic racism.

Heeding the call, the University of Pennsylvania is committed to dismantling systemic and structural barriers to equality and maintains members of the Penn community have a responsibility to make change happen. Penn Vet and other Penn schools are working together and individually to create welcoming communities that are both diverse and inclusive. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) @Penn Vet

Positions & Curriculum

  • In a May 31 statement, Penn Vet Dean Andrew Hoffman denounced racism and affirmed Penn Vet’s position on diversity and inclusion. “Racism reveals itself across all facets of our society. This intractable and vexing facet of public health was worsened in the coronavirus pandemic. And the death of Mr. Floyd has made it even more profound, and unmistakable…It is my desire that over the next decade, Penn Vet’s diversity, our inclusivity, our culture, ascends to be one of our most enduring legacies.”
  • On June 4, Dean Hoffman issued a second message: “We do not — we will not — tolerate racism, violence, or inequity against communities of color, communities of orientation, communities of gender, or communities of faith. We will move diversity, equity, inclusion, and climate initiatives forward into every facet of our mission and culture here at Penn Vet.”
  • Culturally sensitive and responsive pedagogy, anti-bias education, and other diversity topics are being incorporated into new curriculum modules.

DEI Talent & Voices

  • In April 2019, Dean Hoffman announced the inaugural Diversity Council, comprising 23 representatives from the student body, faculty, and staff. The Council works closely with the Dean’s Office to focus on recruitment initiatives, external outreach, internal resources, training, and climate, and other opportunities to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion across the School’s Philadelphia and Kennett Square campuses.
  • In July 2020, New Bolton Center formed the New Bolton Center Diversity and Inclusion Group. Established to understand and confront systemic racism and bias, the 38-member, cross-functional group will lead efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion at New Bolton Center as well as in the surrounding community in consultation with the School’s Diversity Council.
  • Also in July, Dean Hoffman announced a nine-member search committee tasked with hiring the School’s first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO). The CDEIO will develop and clarify Penn Vet’s vision for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and help establish policies, programs, and initiatives that advance Penn Vet toward its vision. Dr. Evelyn Galban, Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, chairs the committee.
  • In August, Dean Hoffman announced a new Penn Vet Alumni Board Leadership structure that includes a Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • This summer, Penn Vet also announced the formation of the Underrepresented Minority (URM) Alumni Affinity Group. The goal of the group is to create a network of alumni and students that will build a community, develop support systems, and provide opportunities to create connections. The group also hopes to engage more alumni volunteers that reflect Penn Vet’s diverse alumni population and identify leaders able to share a wide range of experiences and knowledge as veterinary professionals.
  • Over the past 24 months, Penn Vet has expanded the number of faculty Diversity Search Advisors (DSAs) from four to 10. Faculty DSAs represent each Department, and have been overseeing each faculty search since 2012. They work in tandem with the School’s Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Diversity, as well as with the School’s Faculty Council, to promote the initiatives of the School’s Plan for Faculty Excellence through Diversity.
  • The School has launched the Diversity Student Advisor (DStuAd) program for faculty interested in pursuing formal or informal student advisory roles. The program enables faculty to pursue training and professional development programs to develop DEI knowledge and behaviors to build effective advising programs.

DEI Scholarships

  • Penn Vet’s Institutional Advancement Office is increasing fundraising activity for URM and first-generation student scholarships and support, DEI initiatives, and unit-based programs.
  • Honoring a legacy of historic Black veterinarians educated at Penn Vet — like Augustus Nathaniel Lushington, V’1897 and John Baxter Taylor, V’1908 — the School has announced $668,000 in new scholarships for minority and URM students this year.
  • Dr. Katherine A. Houpt, V’63, PhD’72, the James Law Professor Emeritus at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, established a $500,000 endowment for the T. Richard and Katherine Albro Houpt Scholarship Fund.
  • Dr. Jennifer A. Punt, V’88, PhD’91, Professor of Immunology and Associate Dean for One Health, and Dr. Stephen G. Emerson, established the John Baxter Taylor, Jr., VMD Endowed Scholarship for Black students with a gift of $100,000.
  • Dr. Garret Pachtinger, V’05, and Dr. Justine Lee, founders of the veterinary continuing education platform VETgirl, established the VETgirl DEI Scholarship Fund with a gift of $50,000.
  • Through an $18,000 anonymous gift, the School has established the John Baxter Taylor, Jr. Term Scholarship.

DEI Programming

  • In October 2019, Penn Vet’s Department of Clinical Sciences and Advanced Medicine launched the monthly Access, Diversity, and Inclusion Lecture Series. A partnership with the Office of the Dean and Penn’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, the series is designed to introduce an essential component of education in helping to encourage civil debate, broaden the basis for critical thought, and promote cultural understanding across Penn and beyond.
  • In January 2020, Ryan Hospital hosted the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Pet Vaccination and Wellness Clinic, which included a first-time, human wellness component hosted by nurses from Penn Nursing and Penn Dental students.
  • In February, Penn Vet launched the Web Accessibility Project to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, including people who are blind or deaf, and those who must navigate by voice, screen readers, or other assistive technologies. The project offers closed captioning and transcription of all videos, as well as digital communications including websites, web portals, educational materials, and training modules.
  • In June, Penn Vet hosted a School-wide Moment of Silence: Honoring the Life of George Floyd, eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence in reverence and solidarity.
  • In August, 21 Penn Vet faculty and staff participated in Purdue University’s Advancing Inclusion through Human-Centered Veterinary Medicine. The online certificate program is for veterinary faculty, clinicians, veterinary technologists, and veterinary students who want to foster inclusive learning environments at their educational institutions and develop the skills to succeed as veterinary professionals. 

Action to Impact

unity-graphicIn 2018, Penn Vet implemented major changes in its admissions process to reduce bias. The following year, the School significantly revamped the financial aid program to enhance Black and URM student recruitment.

Preliminarily, the School is seeing a positive impact in the representation of the incoming class of V’24: One-third of the class — or 39 students — are URM: 20 Asian, 10 Hispanic, and five Black, with one of each representing American Indian, Black and American Indian, Hispanic and American Indian, and Pacific Islander.

*The American Public Health Association (APHA) and numerous counties, cities, and states nationwide have declared racism a public health crisis. See the APHA statement at news-and-media/news-releases/ apha-news-releases/2020/ racism-is-a-public-health-crisis.


  • On June 19, 2020, Penn commemorated Juneteenth, the 155th anniversary of when enslaved people in Texas received word of the Emancipation Proclamation. President Amy Gutmann asked members of the Penn community “to contemplate the historical significance of Juneteenth and how we can learn from our past to chart a more equitable path forward.” Juneteenth will be an annual commemoration.
  • Also in June, President Gutmann and Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett announced the appointment of Dr. Charles L. Howard as the University of Pennsylvania’s first-ever Vice President for Social Equity and Community. Howard will lead programs and initiatives to advance the University’s mission of fostering social equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Also in June, Provost Pritchett announced that Mamta Motwani Accapadi will be the new Vice Provost for University Life. In his statement, Pritchett noted Accapadi is joining “Penn at a critical moment in our history.” A renowned innovator in student affairs, and devoted to the goals of inclusion, community, and social justice, Accapadi is a leading national advocate for first-generation and low-income students.
  • In July, the University announced the formation of a Campus Iconography Group. This group will engage in outreach across the Penn community to ensure that the presence of statues and prominent iconography reflects the University’s achievements and aspirations to increase the diversity of the Penn community.

Representation by Race/Ethnicity within the DVM Student Population at US Colleges of Veterinary Medicine Internal, Annual Data Report 2019-20, AAVMC