A signature strength of our movement is that people from all backgrounds and perspectives care about animals and want to help them. Our work will only grow in its reach and potency as new generations adopt this passion. These future leaders are already advocating for animal welfare and helping to prevent animal cruelty by living and working in accordance with humane values, upholding them as social norms and shaping the humane world that lies at the heart of our vision.

This is why I’m so inspired by the recipients of this year’s Compassionate Care Scholarships. For the past eight years the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association has awarded scholarships to veterinary students who demonstrate a dedication to animal welfare. This year's scholarship selection emphasized efforts to expand access to veterinary care in underserved communities and to promote diverse representation within the veterinary profession itself. The range and reach of the many qualified applicants this year was nothing short of astounding.

We awarded Compassionate Care Scholarships of $10,000 each to five students who embody these aspirations. Here’s a little bit about them:

  • Esther Lam, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, serves on the board of Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services at University of Minnesota CVM, which provides no-cost veterinary services to tribal nations. Esther also serves as the grant writer for Veterinary Treatment Outreach for Urban Community Health, which provides free basic veterinary care to the Twin Cities area with monthly vaccine clinics. While previously pursuing her Master of Science degree in Animals and Public Policy from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Esther drafted a bill that later passed into law in her home community of Guam, which strengthened animal cruelty laws and emphasized providing humane education to offenders.
  • Aria Stewart, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, is committed to serving often overlooked populations. This summer, Aria participated in our Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) clinic at the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota, which provided veterinary services to pets of community members. Aria serves as the Secretary of the Latinx Veterinary Medical Association Chapter at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and as the school’s Admissions Ambassador. She is also a Veterinary Education Review Committee Member, which helps to hold the veterinary profession accountable for increased representation of BIPOC students. Before entering veterinary school, Aria completed her Master of Science degree in Conservation Medicine at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
  • Gloria Hooshmand, Western College of Veterinary Medicine University of Saskatchewan, serves as the first Student Representative for HSVMA at her school. She spent nearly 10 years working at Acadia Veterinary Clinic, a community-service focused clinic, and has been closely involved with wildlife rehabilitation, shelter medicine and local dog rescues associated with the clinic. Gloria volunteers with the Canine Action Project to address the veterinary needs of dog populations within First Nation communities, with Community Veterinary Outreach, a pop-up clinic offering human health services alongside veterinary care for pets of housing-insecure individuals, and with CatSNIP, a student-run, low-income spay and neuter program.
  • Emily Onyekwere, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, focuses on creating a stronger relationship between Athens Clarke County Animal Services, where she volunteers, and the veterinary school, organizing a vaccine clinic that continues to be beneficial to both pets in the shelter and the veterinary students who participate. She has also worked with the UGA law school to investigate legal barriers affecting access to veterinary care and how to overcome them. The data from this project, now being finalized for publication, will be used to broaden the spectrum of care, improve legislation and address the status of animal welfare in Georgia.
  • Summer Lara, attending Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse reservation, has volunteered to organize many clinics on reservations throughout the Midwest. With the University of Minnesota’s Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services, Summer organized the first SIRVS clinic in her own Lake Traverse community and the first SIRVS equine clinic providing veterinary care for horses participating in the Dakota 38 + 2 Wokiksuye Ride, a commemorative horseback ride that recognizes the execution of Dakota men following the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Summer also co-founded Natives in VetMed, a networking organization that supports Indigenous students and professionals in the veterinary medical field.

I’ve called access to care a defining animal welfare issue of our time; with ever increasing economic inequality, a heightened emphasis on access to care is critical now because many families are struggling. Learning about the work of these rising veterinary stars, I feel hopeful that we are on our way to achieving a more humane and equitable world. I congratulate the scholarship recipients for their dedication and their vision of a better world, one in which no one loses their companion animals because they cannot afford to provide for their care.

Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.