HSVMA Awards 2023 Compassionate Care Scholarships at $10,000 Level: Five Veterinary Students Recognized for Access to Care Efforts

September 28, 2023

By Heather Schrader RVT, MCJ

For the past eight years HSVMA has awarded scholarships to veterinary students who have demonstrated a dedication to animal welfare. This year HSVMA is excited to expand our veterinary student scholarships to five $10,000 awards.  These scholarships recognize veterinary students who not only demonstrate an interest in animal welfare, but also represent a commitment to equitable access and inclusion in veterinary medicine via service or lived experience.  HSVMA recognizes that we cannot advance animal welfare without deliberate and conscious attempts to include more people and more perspectives.  This year's scholarship selection process was, therefore, deliberately designed to support efforts to expand access to veterinary care in underserved communities and to promote diverse representation within the veterinary profession itself.  HSVMA would like to acknowledge and thank all of the many qualified applicants.  They reinforce HSVMA's commitment to student outreach and reveal the remarkable activities that vet students achieve while in school.

2023 Compassionate Care Scholarship Recipients

Aria Stewart, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, class of 2026

Emily Onyekwere, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2024

Esther Lam, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2025

Gloria Hooshmand, Western College of Veterinary Medicine University of Saskatchewan, class of 2025

Summer Lara, Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2026


Aria Stewart (she, her)

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, class of 2026

Before entering veterinary school, Aria completed her Master of Science in Conservation Medicine (MCM) at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.  There she realized her “true passion” for One Health and access to care.  Whether it is detecting disease in illegally trafficked wildlife or providing veterinary services to communities without adequate access, Aria is committed to serving populations often overlooked.  She currently serves as the Secretary of the Latinx Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA) Chapter at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.  Aria also serves as the school’s Admissions Ambassador where she can provide information to prospective students, and Veterinary Education Review Committee Member where she communicates to the school administration on behalf of her peers.  Her representation in this capacity is vital to holding the veterinary profession accountable for increased representation of BIPOC students.  This summer, Aria participated in a Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) clinic at the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota.  This week-long clinic provided much needed veterinary services to the pets of community members living on tribal land.  Aria also hopes to facilitate collaboration between the Tufts LVMA chapter and a veterinarian she works with to create monthly pop-up clinics providing services to underserved communities in the Boston area. 

After graduation, she plans to complete a rotating internship and ultimately balance her clinical work with international projects.  Aria states, “Being awarded this scholarship has not only lightened some of the financial burden I carry, but it also validates the hard work and passion I pour into veterinary medicine every day; especially the dedication I have to providing quality, life-changing care to underserved communities.”


Emily Onyekwere (she,her)

University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2024

When Emily started volunteering at a local shelter as an undergraduate, she knew that her work there would direct her future endeavors.  After starting veterinary school, she became elected as an officer in UGA CVM’s Shelter Medicine Club.  She had remained a volunteer for Athens Clarke County Animal Services and focused on creating a stronger relationship between the shelter and the vet school.  Emily organized a vaccine clinic that continues to be beneficial to both pets in the shelter and vet students who participate.   In Fall of 2022, Emily spent her Saturdays volunteering in the Community Intervention and Outreach clinic at East Athens Community Center which provided free veterinary services and client education to neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of owner surrenders and euthanasia.  In addition, she worked in collaboration with the UGA law school to help investigate legal barriers affecting access to veterinary care and how these barriers could be overcome.  The data from this project will be used to broaden spectrum of care, improving legislation and addressing the state of animal welfare in Georgia, and is being finalized for publication. 

Emily plans to pursue a career in shelter medicine serving the pets and people of Georgia.  She states, “Being a recipient of this prestigious scholarship means more than I can really put into words. Many people turn away from Shelter Medicine due to the reality of facing a mountain of debt with a comparatively lower salary. A scholarship of this size helps to make this career a reality. There aren't many specialties that are as emotionally demanding as working in communities where people love their pets so much, but it is the norm to have to give up their animals or make other difficult decisions strictly due to finances. Recognition of the effort we put in to help these often overlooked and underrepresented communities, owners, and pets, truly makes me want to do my absolute best to help those who may have few options left.”


Esther Lam (she,her)

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2025

Esther serves on the board of Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services (SIRVS) at University of Minnesota CVM, a student-run group which serves tribal nations in Minnesota and neighboring states.  SIRVS’s mission is to “strengthen partnerships between Indigenous communities and future veterinarians through reciprocal learning, veterinary care, and service.”  By partnering with these communities to provide no-cost veterinary services, the students reinforce the human-animal bond their clients enjoy with their pets and realize the incredible need for access to care.  Esther also serves as the grant writer for Veterinary Treatment Outreach for Urban Community Health (VeTOUCH), another vet student run club which provides free basic vet care to the Twin Cities area with monthly vaccine clinics.  Through her outreach work with SIRVS and VetCamp, an educational program for students interested in the veterinary careers, Esther provides mentorship and representation for children who want to learn more about veterinary medicine.  Her path to veterinary medicine began before starting school at the University of MN when she received her Master of Science in Animals and Public Policy from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2019.  During that time, Esther drafted a bill (which later passed into law as the PAWS Act in December 2020) which strengthened animal cruelty laws in Guam with an emphasis on providing humane education to offenders. 

Esther plans to pursue emergency medicine and hopes to return to Guam so she can serve her community in this role and as a public health officer, utilizing her dual DVM/MPH degrees.  She states, "I am extremely humbled and honored to be a scholarship recipient and words cannot express how grateful I am to HSVMA for this amazing opportunity. This scholarship will not only help alleviate some of my financial burdens while I continue my veterinary medicine education, but also enable me to pursue and explore my passions through more experiences and opportunities, especially those outside of school."


Gloria Hooshmand (she,her)

Western College of Veterinary Medicine University of Saskatchewan, class of 2025

Gloria's nearly decade-long employment at Acadia Veterinary Clinic, a community-service focused clinic, encouraged her advocacy for the voiceless and strengthened her resolve to apply to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She spent many years closely involved with wildlife rehabilitation, shelter medicine and local dog rescues that associated with the clinic.   

As a first-generation Canadian born to Baha'i Iranian refugees, Gloria’s sensitivity to the needs of marginalized and underserved communities made access of veterinary care her focus as she prepared her vet school application. Since 2015, Gloria has volunteered with the Canine Action Project to address the veterinary needs of First Nations communities’ dog populations through a One Health approach. Locally, she volunteers with Community Veterinary Outreach, a pop-up clinic offering human health services alongside veterinary care for pets of housing-insecure individuals and with CatSNIP, a student-run low-income spay and neuter program.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gloria completed the One Health Masters program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Her thesis addresses the impact of melting permafrost on the health and safety of the Yu'pik dog-sledding community of Akiak, AK. 

At the WCVM, Gloria serves as the first Student Representative for the HSVMA. She has already brought welfare concerns to her school’s administration and faculty from the vulnerable position of a second year vet student in an attempt to advocate for the most humane teaching methods.  She is also advocating for an anonymous animal welfare reporting system that allows DVM students the opportunity to voice concerns in a structured and effective manner. She is an executive committee member of One Veterinary Outreach (OVO), a student club promoting socially responsible veterinary medicine.  As for her plans after graduation, Gloria states, “I have a few possible paths in mind after graduation including registering as a mobile vet for increased practice autonomy, working as clinic associate somewhere with shared values, or committing myself to a dermatology residency! One thing is for certain- I plan on expanding my efforts to improve access of care to underserved communities and will continue supporting shelter medicine and wildlife rehab throughout my veterinary career.” 


Summer Lara (she,hers)

Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, class of 2026

As a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse reservation, Summer has supported Native representation at every opportunity. She has volunteered with and helped organize many clinics on reservations throughout the Midwest.  One of the organizations with which she has done extensive work is University of Minnesota’s Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services (SIRVS), a student run organization providing veterinary care for pets in tribal nations. Summer organized the first SIRVS clinic in her own Lake Traverse community.  In addition, she also organized the first SIRVS equine clinic providing veterinary care for horses participating in the Dakota 38 + 2 Wokiksuye Ride, a commemorative horseback ride that recognizes the execution of Dakota men following the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Summer also co-founded Natives in VetMed, a networking organization which supports Indigenous students and professionals in the veterinary medical field.  This organization also provides educational opportunities and outreach through clinics in Indigenous communities.  Summer and the other co-founders were invited to present at the 2022 Access to Veterinary Care Conference hosted by the ASPCA and University of Minnesota. 

She wrote in her statement of intent: “This scholarship would lessen my financial burden, which in turn would allow me to focus more of my time and effort on giving back to the community that has supported me – representing our traditional value of ituh’an or reciprocity.”  After graduation, Summer plans to either pursue an internship or a position that provides mentorship.  She’d like to eventually open a mixed animal practice in Sisseton, SD, which “incorporates affordable veterinary care but also cultural values and teachings through storytelling and Dakota language.  Ideally, I’d love for it to be called Wamanica Awanwicayakapi Oti, or the Place Where They Care for Animals.”


Click here to read about last year's Compassionate Care Scholarship recipients

The HSVMA Compassionate Care Scholarships application will be available next year. Contact [email protected] with any questions about the program.