LSU Vet Med alumnus creates scholarship for historically under-represented students
A life-long trail blazer, George Robinson was the first African-American from Louisiana to attend the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. He was only 19 when he was admitted. The North Baton Rouge native was also the first African-American Eagle Scout in Louisiana. Now, he has established another first, a scholarship for African-American students at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, helping to help pave the way for others to achieve their dreams.
The Dr. George E. Robinson III, DVM, MSPH Graduate Scholarship was established to encourage historically under-represented students to pursue an education at the veterinary school.
Of 1,448 students admitted to LSU Vet Med in the past 14 years, 28 were African Americans, an average of about 2 percent. According to 2019 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, African Americans make up less than 1 percent of the occupation. By comparison, African Americans comprise 13.4 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nine out of 10 veterinarians in the U.S. are white, according to the Veterinary Information Network News Service, which ran a recent interview with Dr. Robinson and others discussing what it was like to be black in one of the most homogeneous professions in the country.
“I wanted to give these students an opportunity and serve as a role model for advancing their careers, to show them, ‘if I could do it, you can do it.’ A scholarship facilitates that by removing financial barriers and providing incentive,” he said.
Founder, former CEO, and vice chair of the Heartland Veterinary Partners Board of Directors, it was Dr. Robinson’s passion to create a legacy at his alma mater.
“I got a top-level veterinary education at LSU,” he said.
Dr. Robinson’s collective gifts to LSU Vet Med exceed $650,000. With the equity group, they recently sold Heartland Veterinary Partners, a veterinary hospital acquisition and support organization with more than 150 clinics that generated over $200 million in less than five years.
He’s still very involved in the company and remains a strong influence on its culture.
His business acumen stems from recognizing in his own early practice what he knew he wanted—and didn’t. He immersed himself in self-directed study, found experts, and asked them for information. He found he had a talent for the business side of veterinary medicine, sold his practices in New Orleans, and joined a corporate group, where he was rapidly promoted into upper management.
“The culture of a company is everything because culture guides people’s decisions. The foundation of a company is its people. If we’re asking them to climb a mountain, we need to know what is important to them to get their best efforts,” he said.
Dr. Robinson wanted to be a veterinarian since he was 14 years old. He grew up around animals and people who loved them. His father was dean of the School of Agriculture at Southern University in Baton Rouge and would mention in passing that he’d wanted to be a veterinarian, however, opportunities weren’t available to him when he was a student.
“When I thought about what I wanted to do in the drudgery of everyday life that would make me happy to get up every morning, I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian,” said Robinson, whose early mentor was Clyde Raby, DVM, who practiced in Baton Rouge.
Dr. Robinson holds a master of science in public health degree from the Howard University School of Medicine, and a B.S. from Southern University. He previously served as vice president of the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine and is currently a class agent for the LSUVet Med Class of 1981. He a member of the LSU Foundation Board of Directors.
Dr. Robinson served as the chairman of the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s Practice Advisory Panel that issued the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel report on Telemedicine that provided guidance on the veterinary profession’s responsible use of telemedicine.
With more than 30 years of veterinary experience in clinical, operational, and senior management roles, Dr. Robinson also held a senior management and operations position with National Veterinary Associates, comprised of 500 hospital locations and 1,000 veterinarians throughout the U.S. Dr. Robinson also was in management with Banfield, The Pet Hospital, including as a regional medical director responsible for multi-hospital leadership and operations involving more than 180 veterinary hospitals. Prior to these management roles, Dr. Robinson owned, operated, and sold his own veterinary hospitals.
Throughout his career, he has remained a practicing DVM. His clinical interests are avian medicine, and small animal orthopedic and soft tissue surgery. He enjoys lecturing, teaching, and sharing his knowledge through journal articles, media, and mentorship.
“Anyone who wanted to know what it was like to be a vet, I would let them volunteer at my place,” said Robinson, who practiced veterinary medicine for 18 years in New Orleans and visited public schools wearing his white lab coat so that children could see a veterinarian who looked like him.
“Kids who maybe never thought they could be a veterinarian would see me and realize it was possible. I may have been the first black vet they ever saw. Seeing me was a motivator. We’ve got to use every tool in the toolbox,” he said.
Amber Fairley will be the first recipient of the Robinson Scholarship. She began at LSU Vet Med in August 2021.
He wants Fairley and many others to have the chances he had, hopefully in an environment where they feel less alone.
“When I was a vet student, the African-American employees, particularly the janitors, knew me personally because I was the black kid. They wanted me to make it, and I felt that support. If I fell asleep in the study carrels, they woke me up with words of encouragement. Vet school was grueling. They let me know I wasn’t alone,” Dr. Robinson said.
The scholarship will fund all four years of Fairley’s veterinary education at LSU Vet Med and support her plan to pursue a career in laboratory animal medicine. She is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
Recipients of the scholarship will be full-time first-year students pursuing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at LSU Vet Med and maintaining a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above. In the interest of promoting diversity in enrollment and encouraging enrollment by historically under-represented ethnicities at LSU Vet Med, the scholarship will be awarded to African-American students until such time as enrollment parity is achieved. Consideration for this scholarship is based on the information prospective students provide in their admission application. No separate application is required. Financial need may be a consideration in selecting recipients.
About LSU Vet Med: Bettering lives through education, public service, and discovery
The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 33 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. LSU Vet Med is dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of animals and people through superior education, transformational research, and compassionate care. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.