Houston veterinarian Dr. Aziza Glass is the first African-American adult host of the Disney XD original series “Roman to the Rescue,” a 17-episode show which follows 10-year-old Roman McConn as he helps to find families for rescue dogs. Glass is the expert that provides McConn with the knowledge he needs to make the right decisions.
The Prairie View A&M University alum is the owner of Personal Touch Veterinary Clinic, a mobile company centered on integrative medicine, and has been featured on ABC, “Fox Morning News” and Nat Geo Wild.
As a Black veterinarian, she hopes her presence both in the community and on national television will open doors for other people in color to enter a field that is predominantly white.
The Defender spoke with Glass about the new show and her journey from Houston to the TV screen.
Defender: Tell us about yourself and what drew you into veterinary medicine?
Dr. Aziza Glass: I always had an affinity to learn about animals. I never had a pet growing up. So, I mainly learned about animals through books. My dad got me watching different documentaries. Once I got to HSPVA [Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts] one summer, my dad met a recruiter at Prairie View for the college of human sciences, and they had a summer research program called the research apprentice program. My dad was said it was something I needed to do. He wanted me to be productive.
I ended up going to Prairie View’s campus for the first time and I got introduced to the field of animal science and I loved it so much. It was my first time really having my hands on animals. I was able to work with pigs on their farm, I saw a dairy farm. I’m from Third Ward so all of this was new to me. I decided I was going to college as an agriculture major concentrating on animal science. But even then, I still didn’t know I was going be a vet until my sophomore year where I saw the upperclassmen that I looked up to start their process of preparing for post graduate. I realized I could go to vet school and become doctor.
Defender: How did an HBCU prepare you for your career and how did it shape you as an individual?
Glass: I enjoyed my experience at Prairie View. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with being at an HBCU. There’s a lot of development that happens with students that people don’t necessarily think about. I tell students all the time that a lot of your education is going to come from outside the classroom. It allows you to explore all the different facets of yourself about having to constantly be reminded that you’re Black. The school held me accountable and prides itself on [students] being productive members of society as well as in the classroom. It gave me the confidence knowing that we can show up and outperform other universities.
Defender: Veterinary medicine is one of the most homogeneous professions in the U.S. How have you been able to successfully navigate this space as a Black woman?
Glass: I’m still learning how to navigate this space. It helps when I have mentors who’ve been in this field for decades; people who will help with your career development and advocate for you in certain conversations that will determine if you’re employed or not. You have to deal with the politics of the industry when you’re an employee working for larger corporation, or learning how to deal with a difficult client who may refuse to pay for certain things. There are so many factors.
I’ve been self-employed since 2018. I’m able to create my own space and carve my own lane, embrace all of my interests including entertainment. It allows me to continue to be a working mom and its flexible enough for me to actually have it all.
Defender: When did you meet your first Black veterinarian and was it significant for you?
Glass: They were my professors. Dr. Barbara Johnson, who is retired now, taught anatomy and physiology and Dr. Stella taught animal science focus courses. It was eye- opening to see them practice or teach. They were my first examples and they didn’t allow me to skate by. They held my feet to the fire and held me accountable. The first Black vet I met in the clinical space was Dr. Baker, who recently passed. He was one of the first veterinarian acupuncturists in the state of Texas. Now, I’m a certified veterinarian acupuncturist. They were all instrumental to my journey.
Defender: What needs to change to attract more Black people to this field?
Glass: It’s representation. There are a great group of vets that are helping to change that. Less than 2% of us are Black in this industry. When you look at veterinarians on TV right now a good portion of us are Black. It has helped to change the lives and possibilities of inspiring students. We are working so that there aren’t so many gatekeepers that keep young students of color from entering the field.
Diversity, equity and inclusion [are not] buzz words. Let’s actually make it happen, so the next generation is not weeded out because of lack of resources and not being denied when they want to shadow in order to earn their required shadowing hours. These are things that keep interested students from taking the next step. If you’re garnering a powerful collective voice that is pushing back against the status quo, you are helping the next generation.
Defender: How did you integrate yourself into the television space?
Glass: This was a God’s timing. I was in school when I received an email letting me know that there was a production company that was interested in doing a project with Cornell Vet School. I went to an extensive interview process and I was tasked to be on a television show that aired on Nat Geo Wild. It was a docuseries showing students what it takes to become a vet. I came from an arts background so I was used to being on stage. I receive emails from parents who watch the show pointing at the TV. This was a sign that I have a unique set of gifts that allow me to move in this space. This prepared me for the opportunity that led to my big moment on Disney.
Defender: Tell us about your new Disney series “Roman to the Rescue.”
Glass: It was a no-brainer jumping on board for this opportunity. Part of me wanted to pinch myself but I also had to tell myself that these are the things that I prayed for. What I want people to take away from this show is the message about loving and caring for animals and consider adopting rescue animals before going to breeders. That’s fine if you want to do that but there are so many dogs at these shelters looking for a forever home. You’ll have a whole new respect for animals as well as animal welfare. Seven episodes are up and are available on YouTube TV, Disney XD and Disney Now.