Tracy Hanner, D.V.M., poses with his freshman class of laboratory animal science students.
Recruited in 1986 by his mentor, Alfreda Webb, DVM, as clinical associate veterinarian for diagnostic facilities at the university, Hanner has been an active participant in the department’s growth ever since as a mentor, teacher, researcher and veterinarian.
“My passion is getting diverse students into veterinary medicine,” Hanner said. “It’s a matter of exposure. Many students come into the program with no experience with animals, and so we work hard to give them that exposure. We are becoming very successful.”
Hanner takes over a department that is currently the college’s largest, with more than 400 students. The department produces the nation’s second-highest number of African American students who go on to pursue Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees; nine CAES students were accepted into veterinary schools last year.
The need for diverse veterinarians is not just an inclusion issue, but could be a public health issue as well, Hanner said.
“If there’s no diversity, diverse people won’t come in to get their animals checked,” he said. “Outbreaks in herds, or various types of sickness among animals, could go unreported.”
Hanner is the first African American veterinarian in North Carolina to graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University.
Growing up in Bear Creek as the son of a tenant farmer, Hanner fed 38,000 chickens every day, taking their feed around in a wheelbarrow. He became interested in veterinary medicine after watching the vet that came to their farm to work with the animals.
“I would watch the vet work, and I was curious,” he said.
Hanner earned a biology degree from N.C. Central University in 1974 and went to work for the National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. as a research and animal technician. He came to N.C. A&T as a student in the early 1980s, taking classes to bolster his application to the newly established vet school at N.C. State.
In 1982, as a student, Hanner toured Webb Hall as it was being built and met Alfreda Webb, a professor and coordinator of the university’s new Laboratory Animal Science program. One of the first African American women to graduate from a school of veterinary medicine in the United States, the Tuskegee Institute (now University) School of Veterinary Medicine, Webb took an interest in Hanner’s career, recruiting him after graduation to be a part of the growing Animal Sciences program.
“She had followed me throughout vet school, and I didn’t know it,” Hanner said. “I didn’t know how important she was when we met, but she became a great mentor.”
During his tenure at A&T, Hanner has been named advisor and teacher of the year, served as chairman of the institutional animal care and use committee, elected to Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture and the N.C. A&T chapter of the Golden Key International Honor Society. He has also been an advisor to the Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.
In 2005, he was named National Role Model of the Year by Minority Access Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting higher education, corporations and the government in increasing diversity. In 2009, he received the Iverson Bell Award for Veterinary Medicine from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
During his time as chairperson, Hanner will focus on increasing student retention, growing existing programs and preparing students for the job market.
“Animal sciences is a field with very low unemployment,” Hanner said. “Whether it’s hands-on access to animals or instruction in how to dress and how to prepare a resume, I want our students to be ready.”