Women In Veterinary Medicine

March marks the month where we celebrate women’s history, remembering how much women have accomplished and contributed throughout history and across the country. We’ve made strides in every professional field, including veterinary medicine. The field was at one time male-dominated, however women have turned the tide throughout the 20th century. Now, 64% of those who graduate with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) are female. For a women-owned clinic like Harmony Veterinary Center, this achievement is astronomical. Every day, we are grateful for our opportunities to serve your furry friends, thanks to the women who came before us. 

Records from the McKillip Veterinary College in Chicago show a Mignon Nicholson who graduated in 1903, though no more information about her career is available. So the first female veterinarian title officially goes to Dr. Elinor McGrath, who graduated from Chicago Veterinary College in 1910. She started a veterinary practice for small animals, which was very uncommon at the time as most veterinary practices were for farm animals. Dr. McGrath practiced for 37 years in Chicago and devoted her life to improving the health of countless pets. She also established the first pet cemetery in Chicago to honor the bond we humans have with our dog and cat companions.

To learn about more of the major female pioneers in veterinary medicine, watch this short video made by MedVet. But we’d like to focus on the women who have furthered our field right here in the Colorado community.

According to U.S. News & World Report Best Veterinary School Rankings, the top 3 schools in the country in order are UC Davis in California, Cornell University in New York State and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Established in 1870, the Colorado Agricultural College began introducing veterinary education courses in 1879. The program grew and established the Doctor of Veterinary Science program in 1907, the same time Dr. Elinor McGrath started breaking barriers in Chicago. However, the first female veterinarian didn’t graduate from the program in Colorado until 1932. Her name was Evelyn Hermann Keagy. Upon graduation, she moved to California and founded the Keagy and Keagy Veterinary Hospital in Beverly Hills with her husband, Hilan F. Keagy. They ran the clinic for 56 years, until her death in 1988. Their son then took over the business and renamed it Beverly Hills Small Animal Hospital, which is still successful today. Both doctors made history, but Dr. Evelyn Keagy’s contributions are especially overlooked. She made it possible for women to expand their horizons and become entrepreneurs alongside their male counterparts. Dr. Keagy inspired veterinarians in Colorado, California, and the country to never settle for less than what they can achieve.

Women are still making history in veterinary medicine at Colorado State University. Dr. Susan VandeWoude grew up on a family farm in Virginia, spending her childhood raising many animals with her sisters. Her mother was actually certified to perform artificial insemination on cattle, while her father was a scientist, even becoming elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1933. After graduating from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. VandeWoude completed a number of internships and research. In 1990, she joined Colorado State University and studied viral infections in cats, both domestic and wild. She also enjoys teaching students and running her own lab. 

Her contributions to the veterinary field helped Dr. Vandewoude to follow the same path of her father and become elected to join the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. She is the second female researcher from CSU to join the NAS and now helps the nonprofit organization lead crucial scientific research. Dr. VandeWoude is a part of the ever-increasing numbers of women leading the way in veterinary science. Inspiring others to reach their fullest potential isn’t new, but for female veterinarians in Colorado, it’s revolutionary. Read more about Dr. VandeWoude’s research and story here.

We’d also like to recognize the amazing work the staff members at our clinic have done in helping our community of furry friends — and humans. Harmony Veterinary Center is owned by hardworking, dedicated, and kind women who create a wonderful space for both pets and people. The majority of our staff members are also women, and are crucial to the success of our clinic and our community. Whether serving at the front desk, in exam rooms, in operating rooms, or behind the scenes, we greatly appreciate all veterinary staff. You are making history!