Cultivating Tomorrow’s Leaders: Cole and Gifty

An integral part of the mission of the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) is supporting students at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (TAMU-CVM) and the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine (TTU-SVM). TVMF recognizes the importance of cultivating leaders who embrace diverse perspectives and strive to improve the local communities where they will live and work after graduating from school. This is why TVMF reserves seats on the Board of Trustees solely for TAMU-CVM and TTU-SVM student representatives who bring a unique yet important viewpoint to the table.

This year’s TVMF student representatives from TAMU-CVM are Gifty Thomas (TAMU-CVM Class of 2024) and Coleman Hartis (TAMU-CVM Class of 2025). TVMF is intentional about creating an environment in which student representatives are provided with a unique combination of challenges and support in an effort to help them develop leadership capabilities that they will continue to use in the future.

“There are so many ways we can give back in the veterinary profession,” Hartis said. “TVMF has shown me the importance of giving back to other members of the veterinary profession.”

Fellow TVMF student representative Thomas concurs. “I hope to have a future in being able to support other veterinarians,” Thomas said. “It would be a great honor to combine my desire to serve the community with my interest in veterinary medicine and enrich the health of the members of the veterinary community.” 

During TVMF’s last strategic planning process, one theme that surfaced repeatedly was the desire of veterinarians to have more ways to connect and give back to their communities. One way TVMF helps facilitate that goal is through the LEAP (Lending Economic Assistance for Pets) program, which provides veterinary care free of charge to the pets of Meals on Wheels clients in Austin, Bryan/College Station, Dallas, Houston and Abilene. Both Thomas and Hartis have been involved in the LEAP program in Bryan/College Station. 

After learning about TVMF during presentations at student orientation last fall, Hartis got involved with the LEAP program by participating in a student-run dog-walking program for LEAP clients. This program had previously been put on hold due to COVID-19 concerns and was recently revived by TAMU-CVM students representatives Gifty Thomas and Taylor Hood. 

Hartis has found participating in the dog-walking program to be very rewarding. “This program allows veterinary students to connect with members of the community and provide routine dog-walking services to them,” he elaborated. “It is a great opportunity for students to serve community members in need.” 

TVMF believes in helping student representatives to harness their leadership potential and to understand how their commitment and dedication to their home communities can leave a powerful and lasting impact. Students who serve on the TVMF Board of Trustees hear and contribute to the resolution of real-world challenges, like the choices that many low-income, elderly pet owners have to make each month between paying for their own necessities or caring for their beloved animal companions. These students are given the opportunity and mentorship to help develop and implement action plans. This process brings many voices to the table and utilizes a collaboration of professionals and community members to assist those in need.

Previous TAMU-CVM student representative Taylor Hood (Class of 2023) spoke passionately about her drive to serve her community in her future role as a veterinarian. “It should be the goal of every person within their community – a drive to give back to the people around you through whatever resources you have,” she said. “Veterinarians are in a unique position to help their community through their medical training and passion for helping both animals and people. These are special resources that only a veterinary professional can provide.”

Hartis agreed and added, “I believe it is important to give back to our community because it connects us with our community in a meaningful way. As veterinarians, we have the unique role of promoting animal health and public health in our communities.”

Cultivating these leaders of tomorrow and instilling a passion to serve where they live are what student engagement on the TVMF Board of Trustees is truly all about.

Should you have any questions about the engagement of the students at the TAMU-CVM or need additional information about TVMF, please contact TVMF Director Leah Ann Tibbitts at 512-452-4224 or