Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine student Leo Holguin, DVM ’16, will receive the 2015 Patricia M. Lowrie Diversity Leadership Scholarship, awarded by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

Holguin was selected from among student applicants from 30 accredited colleges. He will receive a monetary scholarship and a funded invitation to the Iverson Bell Symposium in Washington, D.C. this spring.

As stated in the award letter by AAVMC Executive Director Andrew McCabe, “The field of applicants was especially competitive this year, and your selection is a measure of your commitment to addressing inequities and underrepresentation in veterinary medicine, and advocating for social justice.”

Holguin helps recruit underrepresented students to veterinary medicine, and is raising awareness of LGBTQ issues and inclusiveness. He served as the outreach co-chair for the Students of Color and Allies for Outreach, Retention and Education (SCORE). The mission of SCORE is to provide a safe place for students on campus, to provide students with the tools needed to navigate the struggles of school, and to build a sense of family and support and educate campus about relevant issues affecting students of color. SCORE also reaches out to K-12 schools and undergraduate programs to encourage students of color and underrepresented students to choose health careers.

Holguin also joined Broad Spectrum Veterinary Student Association (BSVSA) as national co-chair. BSVSA’s mission is to connect, support and empower community for LGBTQ students and allies across veterinary education.

“This scholarship means a great accomplishment for all the hard work done by SCORE and BSVSA and myself in promoting diversity in veterinary medicine,” Holguin said. “Receiving this prestigious scholarship gives me great satisfaction, and acknowledges that my passion for diversity and social justice is not unnoticed.”

The Patricia M. Lowrie Diversity Leadership Scholarship recognizes veterinary students who have demonstrated exemplary promise as future leaders and have made significant contributions to enhancing diversity and inclusion in academic veterinary medicine.

“WesternU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is proud of the diversity of its faculty and student body, and this award to one of our students helps validate the culture and environment of inclusion that we so cherish,” said CVM Dean Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD. “We are indeed proud of Leo Holguin for his contributions to our college environment, and ultimately to our profession.”

The scholarship honors individuals who have consistently championed efforts to address inequities and underrepresentation in the veterinary profession, have advocated for social justice, and have advanced initiatives to value diversity and inclusion within U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine.

“As a gay male student, I felt underrepresented in a very conservative field of medicine,” Holguin said. “During last year’s student veterinary medical association annual symposium, I was able to attend the diversity forum and interact with BSVSA members and chat with the national co-chairs about their experiences. Having other students that you can relate to (about) your struggles, and who understand how and what you are feeling, gave me a sense of community.”

Veterinary medicine is one of the least ethnically diverse professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“While the profession is stagnant, the population of the U.S. is rapidly changing,” Holguin said. “I believe that a profession that does not reflect the community it’s serving cannot effectively serve it. Also, veterinary medicine tends to be very conservative and not inclusive in regard to LGBTQ issues. With the changing population and its ideology, the profession needs to increase its sense of inclusiveness to meet the expectations of its clients and reflect its way of thinking. Increasing the inclusive environment in both the workplace and in school is needed in order to build a sense of community. I hope to work with CVM now and as an alumnus to continue to increase the ethnic diversity of the future classes of the college to better reflect the rich diversity of Southern California.”