Internships with the Jacksonville Humane Society to diversify the veterinary workplace

Amya Guest is testing a possible career.

And if it follows this path, it could help diversify animal welfare and veterinary medicine – jobs with less than 10 percent minorities.

Amya is a junior in the Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology’s Agricultural and Veterinary Program and an intern at the Jacksonville Humane Society’s Veterinary Clinic. One of Peterson’s six interns – all color students – the animal lover wanted to learn more about veterinary jobs.

“I wanted to work with animals and I knew I would need experience before I could start my career,” she said. “I’ve always liked animals, I like to see them improve and grow. I like to see them heal.”

Meanwhile, the company and its hospital had a diverse customer base but wanted to help improve minority access to the animal welfare profession, said CEO Denise Deisler.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion have long been part of our lifesaving plan,” she said.

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About 10 years ago, the company began removing “barriers to adoption” such as fence requirements, landlord permission, and veterinarian recommendations, she said. However, during the nationwide race riots last summer, society decided that there were other obstacles to overcome.

When Deisler reached out to Duval County’s public schools to develop a diversity internship program, senior Peterson Agriculture Teacher Julie Lee was looking for veterinary practices and animal welfare charities to host her students.

In order to fully sensitize the veterinary support students to their potential career path, Lee said she had to “get them to work”. You and Deisler met and the pilot program was born.

Intern Isyss Cornley (left) gives Max a shot when he is held down by Kaitlyn Hernandez, a veterinary technician with the Jacksonville Humane Society.

Lee selected six “Superstar” students who she knew would represent Peterson and the agronomy program well. She said she told them, “This is very important … everyone will be looking at you. Are you up to the challenge?”

You are. In the first week of the internship in mid-February, they told her that they “love it. We can do this, we can do this … you really get the full experience,” Lee said.

Deisler said: “There is no written policy preventing a student from participating based on race or ethnicity. However, the school is aware of our goals of increasing diversity in the veterinary and animal welfare fields. You support them Initiative. “”

About 91 percent of the roughly 83,000 veterinarians employed in the United States are white, according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost 92 percent of the 105,000 veterinary technologists and technicians are white, as are about 81 percent of the veterinary assistants and laboratory animal carers, according to the bureau.

According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, about 70 percent of students in the country’s veterinary college programs are white.

Increasing the number of colored people in the association’s colleges and veterinary medicine is imperative, according to Jeffrey Douglas, chief communications officer.

“We know that one of the best strategies for achieving this goal is to enable students to experience the wonders of veterinary medicine at a young age, so we are delighted that such a program is taking shape with the program . ” Jacksonville Humane Society and the Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, “said Douglas.

Abel Harding (left), North Florida President of IberiaBank-First Horizon, hands CEO Denise Deisler (second from left), intern Isyss Cornley, Amya Guest, Diamond, a check for USD 10,000 for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program the Jacksonville Humane Society Canada and Savannah Davis and Veterinarian Madison Sites.

The First Horizon Foundation donated $ 10,000 to support interns through weekly grants that could total $ 750 by the end of the program, said Abel Harding, market president of IberiaBank-First Horizon in North Florida. Harding is also a board member of the company.

“The data clearly shows that people of color are not well represented in the veterinary field, and … this program gave us a small chance to participate by exposing students to new career opportunities,” he said. “The concept of providing students with hands-on work experiences that they would otherwise not have access to is the hallmark of a creative, well-designed program.”

Each Company intern will seek certification as a Veterinary Assistant from the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, which requires a minimum of 500 hours of practical veterinary assistance, of which a minimum of 250 hours must be spent in a live animal veterinary clinic. Your 250 hours of hospital work will be in society.

Under the supervision of the company’s licensed veterinarians, they work to master the nine “competencies” to be certified, which range from the examination room to surgical and laboratory procedures to animal care and nursing.

“The veterinary team is looking forward to working with the students,” said Deisler. “They love their support, especially on busy days. Your senior vet, Dr. Madison Sites, loves how quickly students learn new skills.”

Interns Amya Guest (from left), Isyss Cornley, Diamond Canada, and Savanah Davis of the Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology listen as Antonella Pestana, Veterinary Technician with the Jacksonville Humane Society, instructs them about medicines and supplies.

Students who earn certification have a foundation for employment – possibly filling positions in society – or for participating in college programs. Deisler said the internship can open doors on their résumés to “society’s connections and partnerships with animal welfare agencies, veterinary clinics and pet-focused companies” in Jacksonville and Florida. “This can help students introduce themselves and network.”

Amya, a biracial Caucasian and African American, experiences the full range of veterinary services while helping the vets.

“Everything about preparing for surgery, how to properly keep animals for medical procedures, how to draw and give vaccines, how to draw blood, and things about basic health care like different drugs to use,” she said. “My favorite part is helping with the ‘recovery’ where the animals wake up from surgery. I like to help them stay warm and be there to help them wake up from anesthesia.”

The internship confirmed her desire to work in veterinary medicine, possibly with exotic animals, “something that is medical but not every day or common,” she said. The internship provides important experience for every animal welfare path that she takes.

“It means a lot,” she said. “As soon as I finish I can take my certification test and when I have that I can find a job that will help me start my career.”

Beth Reese Cravey: [email protected]


For more information on the Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, visit; and the vet utility


For more information, contact the company at 8464 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32216; (904) 725-8766 or go to

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