New professor wants to improve minority experience at veterinary college, attract more veterinarians to large animal care
August 24, 2023
Troy Holder’s motivations are straightforward.
“I like teaching and I like being able to make a difference,” said the newly hired clinical assistant professor in large animal surgery at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
One area in which Holder wants to make a difference is improving the veterinary college experience for underrepresented minorities.
“That's the reason I chose Virginia Tech for my next move,” Holder said. He said campus administrators “gave the impression they did not want to be performative and actually want to make some significant changes as far as belonging and making the underrepresented minorities feel comfortable within the college. I had multiple offers, but that’s what tipped it in favor of Virginia Tech.”
Holder spent the last seven years in a similar role at Oregon State University’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, with previous stints at Midwestern University, Kansas State and the University of Tennessee, as well as private practice in Texas and Oregon.
Born in Barbados, Holder received his undergraduate and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine education at the University of the West Indies.
Holder is concerned about attrition in large animal veterinary care and helping reverse those trends.
“The problem is work-life balance,” Holder said. “That’s what I really appreciated when I was at Oregon State. They really made a very big push for work-life balance and wellness.
“There’s really no incentive to go into large animal practice with lower salaries. You work awful hours, you’re always tired. And the industry does not seem yet to be catching up to small animal practice. Even the teaching hospitals, we don’t model good behavior – we’re always tired, we’re always on call.”
Being a large animal veterinarian doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate smaller pets. Three dogs – a 17-year-old blue heeler, a rat terrier and a bernedoodle — have made the move with his family to Blacksburg.
The university town has made a good first impression on Holder.
“Blacksburg is smaller than Corvallis [home of Oregon State] but there's definitely a lot more to do,” Holder said. “And it's a lot more diverse than Corvallis, for sure, and all the surrounding areas in Oregon. I've really enjoyed myself so far.”