A Lasting Legacy

It has been a road less traveled for Lorraine Hoffman and her career in the College of Veterinary Medicine, but one she hopes will be an inspiration to others with non-traditional education and experience.

There have been challenges along the way for Hoffman, but she believes with the creation of a new award named in her honor, she will continue to have an impact on individuals who work in the veterinary profession without obtaining a DVM.

Next fall, the College will recognize the first recipient of the Dr. Lorraine J. Hoffman Graduate Alumni Award, given to individuals who have completed graduate programs in the College (but not a DVM) and who have demonstrated outstanding achievements or leadership in advancing animal or human health and impacting society.

The fact Hoffman was part of the College for nearly 35 years was a testament not only to her dedication and hard work, but to a quirk of fate that changed her career path. Hoffman had dreams of becoming a medical doctor and applied to medical school.

“I was the only female pre-med student in my class at Wartburg College,” Hoffman said. “It was my long-time goal and passion to become a physician, but only a couple of women were accepted into the University of Iowa medical school in the fall of 1964.

“I was crushed,” she recalled. “My mentors were great people but they did not prepare me well for the reality that I was not on an equal playing field with my male classmates. It took me a while to get out of my doldrums, but I took the advice of my microbiology professor to find something I was passionate about.”

Iowa State responded quickly to her inquiry and she was offered a teaching assistantship while working on a master’s degree in bacteriology. Her completion of the master’s program was soon followed by her first appointment in the VDL.

“Dr. (Vaughn) Seaton hired me as a research associate at three-quarter time with a salary of $5,000 a year,” she said. “I loved it and I was doing something I really enjoyed which was primarily bench work on VDL cases.

“It was fascinating and exciting, especially because I was learning on the job and serving the veterinarians of the state.”

Along the way, Hoffman married, had two children, resigned her position to complete a PhD in bacteriology, before re-joining the VDL as an assistant professor and section leader in bacteriology.

“I was a pacesetter as the first female non-DVM faculty member in the VDL, but didn’t realize it when I accepted the position,” she said. There were some tough times as she was not immediately accepted by some older larger animal practitioners.

“Dr. Seaton gave me straight forward advice to be proactive – speak at area meetings, visit clinics, become active in the college, and join national organizations so that colleagues and clients will know you, respect your ability and understand your role in the lab,” she said.

Hoffman served as section leader of bacteriology until 2006 when she was appointed as the VDL’s director of operations, the first female non-DVM to serve in such a role nationwide.She retired from her position in 2009.

During her time at Iowa State, Hoffman created the lasting legacy that remains to this day in the VDL.

“I tried to epitomize the tripartite mission of the land grant university by my daily involvement in professional practice, research, teaching and mentoring,” she said. “My greatest joys have come from serving animal practitioners and owners in Iowa and beyond, helping young people find success and fulfillment in careers, and working with great colleagues who deserve, along with my family, all the credit for my success.”