Veterinary medicine has been around for a long time. Likely since the rise of the first ancient civilizations, in fact! If we fast forward in time to the 18th century, we see the rise of formal veterinary medicine education in European schools, which quickly made its way to the United States. And ever since, the field has been rapidly advancing. 

While veterinary medicine used to be a more male-dominated field, women had no intention of being left behind. According to a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2020 women made up 63% of the workforce, a 12% jump from ten years prior! And what better way to celebrate Women’s History Month than to take a look back in time to see the strides women have made in the field? 

Dr. Elinor McGrath 

Dr. Elinor McGrath is often referred to as the first female veterinarian in the United States. She graduated in 1910 and built up her small animal veterinary practice over the next 37 years. 

Not only was she one of the first women in her field, but she was also one of the first veterinarians to focus primarily on treating small animal pets as opposed to just farm animals, as was more common at the time. 

Dr. Patricia O’Connor 

Dr. Patricia O’Connor Halloran graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1933 and became the first woman to practice as a zoological veterinarian working at the Staten Island Zoo. 

Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb and Dr. Jane Hinton 

In 1949, Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb, graduating from Tuskegee’s Institute of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Jane Hinton, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, became the first African-American women to earn degrees in veterinary medicine. 

Dr. Lila Miller 

Dr. Lila Miller, who graduated in 1977, is a visionary leader in veterinary medicine for shelter animals. She famously said, “The inherent value of the animal should not depend on its ownership.” This statement stemmed from the things she witnessed as a young veterinarian working for a shelter in Brooklyn, New York, where too many cases of neglect and lack of appropriate care were happening within the shelter. 

Disappointed, she rallied and ultimately took action to create new guidelines for caring for shelter animals. During her impressive career, she became the vice president of shelter medicine for the ASPCA and even wrote the first Animal Care Supervisor’s Manual for the ASPCA. This text has clear guidelines for healthcare protocols and adoption protocols. 

Dr. Mary Gardner and Dr. Dani McVety 

Dr. Gardner and Dr. McVety are the founders and co-founders of Laps of Love, a nationwide network of veterinarians who place a special emphasis on geriatric care, hospice care, and end-of-life services. Laps of Love even has support groups and many other helpful resources for pet owners suffering from grief and loss! The bond between humans and animals is a very special connection and something that should be honored and respected at every stage of life. 

Here at Homey Gnome Veterinary Clinic in Oakdale, MN, we, too, recognize the importance of this and hope to see this field continue to grow across the veterinary medicine field thanks to women like Dr. Gardner and Dr. McVety. 

As time goes on, we are eager to see how the field of veterinary medicine continues to evolve thanks to amazing women like those mentioned here! 

Happy Women’s History Month! 


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