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LVMA co-founder Juan Orjuela aims to help increase representation of the Latinx community in the veterinary profession, and provide resources and mentorship to students.
Juan Orjuela, a Colombian-born third-year veterinary student at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, says he’s always wanted be a veterinarian, a career path he knew wouldn’t be easy. After his dream of being accepted into veterinary school came true, he quickly moved on to his next challenge: addressing the lack of diversity in the profession.
When he sought veterinary organizations for Latinx students, Orjuela found none. “That’s when the light bulb went off and I was like, wow, there’s something I can do to change the profession and to represent the people who grew up like me and need those resources and need the mentorship,” he told dvm360 in a recent interview.
Orjuela’s discovery on Instagram of the BlackDVM Network, an organization founded in 2018 to connect black veterinary students and professionals in the industry, inspired him to want to create a similar organization for Latinx veterinary professionals and students. Through social media, he connected with Yvette Huizar, a Mexican-American fourth-year veterinary student at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the two quickly realized that they shared the same vision.
“We were both passionate about wanting to create a community and we exchanged notes in a sense, and we [found we] were literally doing the same things,” said Orjuela. “So, it was heartwarming and an incredible feeling to be like ‘oh my God someone else wants this and is working toward it.’”
The duo co-founded the Latinx Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) in February 2020 with a mission to empower Latinx veterinary professionals and support Latinx students. The group primarily uses Instagram and Facebook to share its four pillars: community outreach, scholarship, mentorship and professional development.
LVMA regularly features Instagram Live interviews with Latinx professionals and students, and has hosted fun events like a Karaoke night to build the community. One of the group’s primary initiatives is to create a directory that will give Latinx pet owners access to Latinx veterinarians. Orjuela said they would also like to host an annual conference that will open up further networking opportunities.
The LVMA planned to introduce itself as an organization at the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA Symposium 2020) in March, but the event was canceled amid COVID-19 concerns.
LVMA is open to Latinx people of all genders and sexual orientations, and includes individuals from such countries as Brazil and Spain. Anyone interested in learning more about the Latinx culture is encouraged to join.
“Our main goal is just to create Latinx excellence and visibility of our Latinx capabilities in this profession,” said Orjuela.
Watch the video below to learn more about why this new organization is vital to the profession.