Multiple UFCVM students win coveted Army scholarship

2nd Lt Laura Harms smiles with classmates. Harms will become a Captain in the U.S. Army upon graduation in May.

2nd Lt. Laura Harms smiles with classmates. Harms became a Captain in the U.S. Army upon graduation in May.

By Alex Avelino

Four Doctor of Veterinary Medicine candidates from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2026 have received scholarships from the U.S. Army’s F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program.

The three-year HPSP scholarship is awarded to students enrolled in an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited program. The scholarship includes full tuition and a monthly stipend of more than $2,000 for more than 10 months. After graduation, students serve as active duty military members for a minimum of three years and participate in training during and post-graduation.

Veterinarians in the U.S. Army are responsible for a wide array of duties. From food safety and security inspections to caring for military working dogs and pets owned by service members, veterinarians play active roles on and off bases. The Army is the only branch of service that has veterinarians, who can serve in many positions within the Department of Defense and throughout the Army.

Each year, the U.S. Army chooses 33 recipients for the program. Currently, UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine has more than 10 HPSP recipients marching through the college’s halls. The winners are recognized each year during graduation at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at UF, and these new veterinarians are posted all over the country.

Student debt is a well-known expectation and burden for the veterinary profession. The average D.V.M. student debt is $150,000. This scholarship is one way to offset that debt to help make students’ veterinary dreams a reality.

The college’s Office for Academic and Student Affairs plays an informational and supportive role for these future veterinarians and military members. Starting at admission to veterinary school, students are exposed to this scholarship opportunity, and Army recruiters work with students throughout the selection process. Lynnette Chaparro, assistant director of admissions, has seen the process unfold over the last 15 years.

“This scholarship is an amazing opportunity, especially for those who are veterans or who have previously served in the military or who plan to have a military career,” Chaparro said. “It takes away one of the major concerns that students have — money. They don’t have to worry about finances or jobs.”

“For me, it’s very personal,” she added. “I have a son who is in the military. It’s imperative that we celebrate these scholarship recipients and recognize them at graduation. It’s a beautiful ceremony and the perfect opportunity for meaningful acknowledgement.”

There are approximately 700 Active Duty Reserve veterinarians. Captain Xavier Jones and Sergeant Michael Santiago are active in the recruitment process of the HPSP recipients and recruitment in general.

“What we saw with the letters of recommendation and the statements of motivation we received shows the potential for leadership,” Santiago said of the latest scholarship winners. “We see that desire to go above and beyond. I think that’s what sets these students apart from all of the applicants.”

Army veterinarians are able to practice a variety of skills, Jones said.

“The scope of their practice is very extensive,” he said, clearing up the misconception that veterinarians only care for the animals of the service members. “There are opportunities for them to do more advanced things and the Army will pay for school once again to learn things like forensics.”

“They’re not just staying stagnant, they’re advancing,” Jones said.

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