COMMUNITY · February 2nd, 2021
Black History Month: Celebrating a Few of the Firsts
In honor of Black History Month, we’re proud to celebrate the remarkable contributions of five extraordinary Black veterinarians. Primarily sourced by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the innovators and trailblazers listed here were among the first in their field, breaking barriers and ultimately making the world a better place for animals and the people who love them.
Dr. Augustus Nathaniel Lushington
Dr. Augustus Lushington is credited by many historians as the first Black veterinarian in the United States. Born in 1869 in Trinidad, at 20 years old he moved to Binghamton, New York. In 1897, he earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, where he was the only Black graduate in his class. He practiced veterinary medicine for two years in Philadelphia before a teaching career brought him to Bell Mead Industrial and Agricultural College in Virginia. He soon opened another veterinary practice focused on large animal medicine, treating cows, horses, and other livestock.
Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson
Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson founded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine – the only veterinary medical school at a historically black college that today has educated nearly 75 percent of the country’s Black veterinarians. Born in 1901 in the same neighborhood as American social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, he was orphaned at the age of two and raised by his sister, Bessie. Bessie reportedly gave half her $20 monthly salary to ensure his education, which ultimately led to him earning a DVM from Iowa State College and a Ph.D. from Cornell University – all at the young age of 31. His academic career brought him to the Tuskegee Institute (now University), where he led the School of Agriculture and served as President from 1935 to 1953. In addition to founding Tuskegee’s Veterinary School and UNCF, he served on President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education and was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan.
In his autobiography, he wrote this about his time at Iowa State:
In the veterinary program, I did not feel odd being a part of the group of students working in the veterinary clinic, although I was the only black person there. The absence of animosity encouraged me to see veterinary medicine as a field in which I could practice without being hampered by the racial stereotypes and obstacles that would confront me as a medical doctor…
Dr. Patterson’s remarkable accomplishments continue to support the education and empowerment of Black American students from preschool through university and beyond.
Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb
Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb was the first Black woman licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the United States. Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1923, Dr. Webb attended the Tuskegee Institute as an undergraduate, followed by the Tuskegee School of Veterinary Medicine. In 1949, she and Dr. Jane Hinton were the first two Black women to earn DVM degrees in the United States. She later taught anatomy at Tuskegee before moving to North Carolina to become a biology and laboratory animal science professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In 1971, she was appointed by the Governor to serve on the North Carolina General Assembly, becoming the first Black female legislator in the state. In 1981, she helped found the School of Veterinary Medicine of North Carolina State University. Nearly 20 years after her death in 2013, the North Carolina Senate ratified a joint resolution to honor her life and memory.
Dr. Jane Hinton
Born in 1919, Dr. Jane Hinton was the daughter of a high school teacher and a successful bacteriologist. Her father, William Augusts Hinton, a son of former slaves, was the first Black professor at Harvard University and made great contributions to the field of microbiology. After attending Simmons College as an undergraduate in 1939, Dr. Hinton worked in Harvard’s laboratories, where she co-developed a now-standard method for testing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. During World War II, she worked as a lab technician and then went on to study veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1949, she earned her DVM degree, becoming the first Black woman (alongside Dr. Webb) to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in the United States. Shortly after, she practiced small animal medicine in Canton, Massachusetts, before joining the Department of Agriculture as an inspector researching and treating disease outbreaks in livestock.
Dr. Lloyd B. Mobiley
Dr. Lloyd B. Mobiley earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1938. He was one of the first Black veterinary graduates in the school’s history. Shortly after, he joined the U.S. military, serving as an officer in the Army Veterinary Corps during WWII. He later joined the faculty at Tuskegee University, where he led the Department of Anatomy. During his time at Tuskegee, he introduced the intramedullary pin as well as other orthopedic devices used in surgery to repair long-bone fractures. His contribution and devices are still used in veterinary medicine to this day.
These great doctors are just a handful of the many Black veterinarians and animal care professionals who have made an incredible impact on our profession and history. They’ve helped shape the present and future of veterinary medicine, and we are grateful to learn about their contributions.
To learn about more Black history-makers in our industry, read the AVMA’s Black History Month spotlights here.