Work-life balance is important! Things will get busy and hectic, but you have to take time for yourself. Maximize the time you have by creating ways to be more efficient. Set realistic goals for the week and daily to stay on track. Carve out time in your schedule that doesn’t include working and maintain those boundaries. For example, Fridays are a meeting-free day for me and Sunday mornings are reserved for hikes or nature walks.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tierra Price.
Dr. Tierra Price is a recent graduate of Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, where she served as Vice President of her class and President of the Women’s Veterinary Development Leadership Initiative. She is currently a Community Medicine veterinarian in Los Angeles, California, but has a wide variety of veterinary interests including emergency/critical care, surgery, public health, and lab animal medicine. As a veterinary student, in 2018, Dr. Price founded BlackDVM Network, a community that aims to empower Black veterinary professionals. This safe space provides educational and networking opportunities for its members as well as a sense of belonging. Dr. Price’s commitment to highlighting Black veterinary professionals is directly related to her desire for a mentor she could identify with. In her free time, she loves dancing, yoga, reading and soaking up the sun. Most importantly, Dr. Price believes we should be able to show up as our entire selves in our career. She hopes to inspire others with her drive, authenticity, and confidence to boldly take on challenges in veterinary medicine.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I’m originally from Louisville, KY. I come from a split household and spent roughly half of my time with each of my parents. I have a half brother, but he is several years younger than me so I basically grew up an only child. Somewhere in the mix, I developed a deep love for animals, especially dogs, and devoted most of my childhood writing assignments to persuade my parents into getting me a pet. At six years old, I was dressing as a veterinarian for career day and my mind was made up- becoming a veterinarian was the career I would pursue. A lot of my time was spent watching Eddie Murphy as Dr. Doolittle, who I later realized served as my only representation of a Black veterinarian (until I was halfway through college). Since my mom was adamant that I couldn’t have a pet, I spent most of my time with the animals at my local shelter.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
BlackDVM Network is an online platform for the empowerment of Black veterinarians, technicians, assistants, and students. We offer community, webinars, discounts, and resources to our members who are true thought-leaders in the veterinary industry and are ready to make a difference. Our mission is to develop successful professionals who can inspire others from diverse backgrounds. As a profession that is more than 90% White and less than 2% Black, we hope to change the “norm” and show pet owners as well as aspiring veterinarians that (even if it’s a small number) there are veterinary professionals they can relate to.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
As a veterinary student, I often felt isolated from my classmates and colleagues in the profession of veterinary medicine. In the process of looking for mentors and colleagues I could relate to, I started an instagram page @blackdvmnetwork to find and expose Black veterinarians and veterinary students. A few months later the page was receiving DMs from students, veterinary technicians, and clients sharing stories of discrimination and hardship in the veterinary community. This is when I realized there was a large gap in resources for Black veterinary professionals and clients and decided to develop BlackDVM Network into an organization.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Yes, for a while I saw the need for inclusion and a paradigm shift in the veterinary community. I imagined BlackDVM Network being an instagram page that would help to connect people and my idea ended there at first. But I soon realized Instagram wasn’t the best place for connecting and building community. I imagined the benefits of having a safe space that included resources and I knew there was potential for an organization such as mine. I had no idea how much work I would have to put in and each day required more work than the previous. At times I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” and really wanted to give up on the idea- especially since BlackDVM Network is the first of its kind in veterinary medicine. But each time I hit a plateau, I’d receive a DM from a student or client about how grateful they were for our page and how we were encouraging them to pursue their passion. Each time I talked with someone I recognized how much an organization like BlackDVM Network could do for the community.
One day a veterinary technician reached out to me about how she had been discriminated against at her job and how hostile her work environment was. She was considering a different career because she continued to have this experience over and over at different clinics. Hearing her story broke my heart and it was at that moment that I knew the Black community had to have a resource and a community to turn to in situations like these.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
BlackDVM Network started as a passion project. The steps I took were directly aligned with my goals and vision and I really had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I tried to network as much as possible and really get to know the people I was trying to serve. I also started small. I had plenty of big dreams and plans, but I started with a simple project (creating a directory of Black veterinarians on our website). This helped me to assess interest and build trust within our community. One of the things I wish I had done was more planning. Sometimes too much planning can be stifling, but enough planning to demonstrate you have thought through the next few steps is always necessary.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
As a veterinarian in the Greater Los Angeles area I have clients from all walks of life. Since I started this job during the pandemic, the veterinarian-client interaction looks very different from what I learned in school. We are using curbside veterinary service to stay safe, so the assistants carry animals to and from cars and I communicate with most of my clients via telephone.
One day I had a client whose cell phone wasn’t working so I had to have the conversation about his dog with him face-to-face (and six feet away, of course). When he saw me, he hesitated and I introduced myself as Dr. Price. He looked puzzled, but I went on to explain my findings and treatment plan for his pet. He nodded in agreement, but finally asked, “Can I take a picture of you?” I hesitated because that wasn’t at all what I was expecting and then he said, “As a Black man who has had pets all of my life, my mother and I have never seen a Black veterinarian. I want to take a picture of you to show her because I know she won’t believe me if I tell her.” I laughed and posed with his dogs so he could document this “first” experience for him. He told me he was really proud of me and to keep up the good work.
It was an odd experience, but it reminded me of why organizations like BlackDVM Network are necessary. Representation matters and we have to strive for a profession that is a reflection of the clients we serve. At that moment I felt re-invigorated to continue the work BlackDVM Network does.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
When BlackDVM Network started to grow into an organization I could no longer manage alone, I decided to recruit some of my friends for help. These were veterinarians and veterinary students who I knew were heavily invested in the cause. I needed help with answering emails, processing memberships and payments, organizing documents, etc. So, naturally I started delegating these tasks to the handful of people who said they would help. Well, what we all soon realized was that we were trained as (or training to become) veterinarians. We were not fluent in the administrative or management space and it was much harder than we thought it would be.
In this moment, I gained an appreciation for the different types of professionals and specific skill sets people have. I also learned that as an organization we will sometimes have to look outside of the veterinary industry to be able to function efficiently as a company. Never limit yourself and continue to grow and collaborate was the biggest takeaway from this mistake.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Definitely! There are so many mentors and so many people that have shown their support along the way. I’m very grateful for them. One of my most influential mentors is a CEO in the fitness industry and leads a wonderful community. She has encouraged me to trust my gut, not be afraid to dream big, and to challenge the status quo. As a mentor, she helps me sort through my own thoughts which is sometimes the hardest part about making decisions. Her advice has helped BlackDVM Network to grow exponentially and in a direction I never could have imagined. Having mentors and supporters is so important. It gives me the confidence to keep going despite the challenges I face daily.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
BlackDVM Network has created connections and community for our members. We have also formed amazing relationships with some of the biggest companies in the veterinary industry. One day on my way to work I received an email from a member stating that she was experiencing discrimination at her job and she was not only ready to quit, but ready to sue the corporation she was working for. I immediately called her to better understand the situation. Since the corporation she was employed with was a partner of BlackDVM Network, I was able to reach out to the Executive team and escalate her concerns. They were mortified by what had happened and transferred her to a different animal hospital within their network. Our member was thankful by the response she was able to get just by being involved with BlackDVM Network and I was proud we were able to help.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Eliminating systemic racism in the application process for veterinary schools and careers in the veterinary industry. This includes re-evaluation of criteria that do not improve output in school or on the job.
- Increasing the pipeline for young students to enter the veterinary industry as veterinarians, technicians, caretakers, and researchers.
- Increasing representation in the C suite in veterinary companies and leadership in veterinary schools.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. This is cliché, but it’s important. We shy away from big tasks often because we are afraid we won’t be successful. I’ve failed over and over again with website design, social media, recruitment, etc. And each of those failures allows me to learn and improve for the next time.
- Be Patient. Starting a new organization is hard because it’s a new concept and unfamiliar to everyone. You are building something from the ground up and that will take time. The vision for BlackDVM Network came to me over 3 years ago and it still isn’t what I envisioned it to be. But I am being patient with my vision, myself, and others.
- Build a strong team. Meet people, network, and build genuine connections. Use this as an opportunity to find others who are aligned with your values and goals for your organization. As one person, you can only do so much. Building a team will help you to expand your vision in ways you never knew were possible.
- You’re going to be busier than you’ve ever been. Deal with it. Leading an organization comes with a lot of responsibility. Most days it will be your passion that drives you to push through. Determine what’s most important. This is what you should focus on and resist the urge to focus on the things that seem “most urgent”.
- Work-life balance is important! Things will get busy and hectic, but you have to take time for yourself. Maximize the time you have by creating ways to be more efficient. Set realistic goals for the week and daily to stay on track. Carve out time in your schedule that doesn’t include working and maintain those boundaries. For example, Fridays are a meeting-free day for me and Sunday mornings are reserved for hikes or nature walks.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
There are many problems that need to be addressed and endless ways to solve them. Get creative with how you approach a problem and be confident that you will have an impact. Even the smallest actions can make big waves, so don’t ever discount your ideas.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Michelle Obama is my real-life she-ro. After listening to her book Becoming, I realized making an impact starts with regular people who have extraordinary passion. She has proven to be a leader in her community and an inspiration to everyone who knows her. I’d want to hear her perspective on current events, advice she has for other women who are following in her footsteps, and what her new life is like. Oh, and she loves dogs- so that’s always a plus in my book!
How can our readers follow you online?
Visit and subscribe to our website at https://www.blackdvmnetwork.com/ and you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn @blackdvmnetwork
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you so much for sharing our story and the stories of others. Greatly appreciated!