Celebrating Black History Month: 4 influential figures you should know

February 27, 2021
dvm360 Staff

Here’s a look at a few Black veterinarians whose leadership, determination and resiliency made a lasting imprint on this profession.

Although Black History Month is coming to a close, the significant contributions African Americans have made in this industry deserve to be celebrated all year long.

In honor of this special month, we will highlight several prominent Black veterinarians who have broken through the glass ceiling of systemic racism and inequality to help build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future for veterinary medicine.

Frederick D. Patterson, DVM, PhD

Deemed one of the most influential Black veterinarians in American history, Frederick D. Patterson, DVM, PhD, earned his degree from Iowa State University and his Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD), from Cornell University.1 He later became the 3rd president of Tuskegee Institute in 1935, along with being selected as a department head. He also founded Tuskegee’s veterinary college, allowing African-American students to finally pursue a veterinary education in a very segregated south.2 A year before his death on June 23, 1987, Patterson was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Raleigh H. Allen, DVM

Raleigh H. Allen, DVM, is recognized as the first African American to pass the 3-day certification examination in Florida, making him the first licensed African American veterinarian in the state.1 Allen passed away on January 26, 2012, but his contributions and significant role in veterinary medicine have made a lasting impact on the entire community.

Lila Miller, DVM

Lila Miller, DVM, graduated from Cornell University, where she received her DVM and BS in Animal Science.She was one of the first two black women to graduate from Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. During her 40-year plus career in veterinary medicine, Miller served as the vice president of shelter medicine for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (ASPCA) and is recognized for writing the first veterinarian-written guidelines for shelter animal care. She’s also coeditor of the “Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians Staff” textbook and a contributing author to the “Recognizing and Reporting Animal Abuse, a Veterinarian’s Guide” publication.

Debbye Turner, DVM

Debbye Turner, DVM, earned her BS from Arkansas State University in 1986 and her DVM, from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1991.1 Turner is known for her resiliency—it took her 7 years, 11 tries, and 2 states before being crowned Miss America in 1990. Since 2001, Turner has been a broadcast journalist and contributor to the CBS television program, “The Early Show,” and has hosted “The Gentle Doctor.” In 2002, Turner interviewed President and Mrs. Bush at the White House for a Pet Planet segment about the first family’s pets. She is also a minister and motivational speaker on leadership development.

These are just some of the many Black industry leaders who have climbed through the trenches of adversity to fight for equal opportunity and advancement in this profession.


  1. CVM Diversity. K-state.edu. Accessed February 26, 2021. https://www.vet.k-state.edu/about/diversity/history-aa.html
  2. CU played a key role in educating first black veterinarians. Cornell.edu. Accessed February 26, 2021. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/02/cu-played-key-role-first-black-veterinarians