This Is How We “Role”: Inspiring Future Researchers through Veterinary Medicine

Project Audience

Children in grades K-4, from underserved communities, who are participating in afterschool programming.

Subjects Addressed

Clinician-scientist careers in veterinary medicine. Health conditions that impact both people and their animals.

Project Website

Dissemination Strategies

Dissemination strategies include: (1) establishing a student-delivered role modeling program at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and at least 15 other colleges of veterinary medicine; (2) live and online professional development workshops for role models; (3) an online health science literacy certificate program; (4) books; (5) a program website; (6) collaborations with other SEPA programs; (7) publications in scientific journals; and (8) presentations at scientific meetings.

Project Evaluation(s)

The Discovery Learning Research Center at Purdue’s Discovery Park will serve as the external project evaluator and will develop a comprehensive evaluation plan to assess the outcomes and impacts.


The lack of diversity in the clinician-scientist workforce is a “very serious concern to the NIH” and to health care professions. Current efforts to broaden participation in STEM fields typically target high school and college-age students. Yet, history and national trends suggest that these efforts alone will not result in rapid or significant change because racial and ethnic disparities are already evident by this time. Children are forming career preferences as early as elementary school, a time when they have little exposure to science and STEM career options.

The overall vision of this team is to meet the nation’s workforce goal of developing a diverse, clinician-scientist workforce while meeting the nation’s STEM goals. As a step toward this vision, the goal of This Is How We “Role” is to inspire elementary school students towards careers as clinician-scientists by increasing the number of K-4 students with authentic STEM experiences. This goal will be attained through two specific aims.

The focus of Aim 1 is to distribute and evaluate a K-4 afterschool program across the diverse geographic regions of the US, to support the development of a robust and diverse clinician-scientist workforce.

Aim 2 is focused on developing the community resources (afterschool program curriculum, informational books and online certificate program) for promoting health science literacy and encouraging careers in biomedical and clinical research for K-4 students from underserved and underrepresented communities. Combined, these aims will enhance opportunities for young children from underserved communities to have authentic STEM experiences by providing culturally responsive, afterschool educational programs which will be delivered by university student and clinician-scientist role models who are diverse in gender, race, and ethnicity.

Books and an online certificate program about health issues impacting people and their animals (i.e. diabetes, tooth decay) will be developed and distributed to children unable to attend afterschool programs. Further, by engaging veterinary programs and students from across the US, along with practicing veterinarians, this program will examine whether the approaches and curriculum developed are effective across the diverse communities and geographic regions that span the country.

Elementary school teachers will serve as consultants to ensure that educational materials are consistent with Next Generation Science Standards, and will assist in training university students and clinician-scientists to better communicate the societal impact of their work to the public.

The program will continue to use the successful model of engaging elementary school students in STEM activities by using examples of health conditions that impact both people and their animals. Ultimately, this project will educate, improve the health of, and attract a diverse pool of elementary school students, particularly those from underserved communities, to careers as clinician-scientists.

Resources for Sharing

Curriculum and professional development opportunities are in development.

Additional Information

San Miguel S.F., Wackerly A.J., Veatch J.H., Ruhl J.D., Mennonno A.M.
Tips for providing P-12 students career day-type presentations about the veterinary profession.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 246(6):616-620. PMCID: PMC4507264