Our Stories

Creating Empowerment Opportunities in the Veterinary Sciences

By Philip Clelland

Manager, Corporate Stewardship Communications

Willow Brook Animal Hospital isn't your ordinary pet clinic. In the two decades since it opened its doors, the center has flourished, becoming a cornerstone for the caring and well-being of more than 4,000 loyal animal companions in DeSoto, Texas.

The heartbeat of this pet haven grew even stronger when Dr. Maya A. Barfield, a dedicated lead veterinarian with more than 10 years of service, and her husband, Adrian Barfield, took over the business with support from the Black Economic Development Fund (BEDF), a mission-driven investment fund aimed at fostering economic empowerment and driving positive change in Black communities across the United States.


Thanks to a $1.1 million acquisition loan from BEDF, the Barfields not only acquired Willow Brook Animal Hospital but also secured ownership of its commercial building. This investment was more than a financial transaction; it afforded them the opportunity for private ownership and economic empowerment in the predominantly Black community. On top of that, Dr. Barfield now stands as an important symbol of progress given less than 2 percent of veterinarians in the U.S. are Black and even fewer own animal hospitals or clinics. 

The loan that helped the Barfields establish ownership of their business was enabled, in part, by a $20 million impact investment from Thermo Fisher Scientific, which makes strategic investments in regions where it operates in alignment with its 4i values - integrity, intensity, innovation, and involvement. By pooling its resources with other organizations and contributing those funds to the BEDF through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Thermo Fisher and its co-investors are able to support multiple development programs through BEDF loans that, when paid back with interest, provide resources to fund additional projects. The breadth of these programs and the impact they’re having across the country can be seen on BEDF’s interactive map.    

For Dr. Barfield and Willow Brook Animal Hospital, professional empowerment is just as much a part of the mission as providing excellent care for pets. Beyond offering a comprehensive range of services, from preventative care and diagnostics to surgery and emergency treatments, Dr. Barfield is on a quest to provide access to development opportunities for Black and minority individuals in the veterinary field. 

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"As part of the community, Willow Brook strives to give excellent care to all our clientele. We want to educate them on being a responsible pet owner. But we also want our staff and employees to grow and develop as well. We want to make them excellent veterinary professionals.”

Dr. Maya A. Barfield

The clinic has become a bridge, connecting the aspirations of those who are up and coming to the reality of practical experience. In supporting their growth and development, Dr. Barfield serves as an example to community members, sparking interest in veterinary sciences and providing opportunities to young veterinarians early in their careers with the hope of retaining them in a rewarding STEM field that has historically seen limited diversity.  

"Supporting institutions that provide a bridge to empowering the historically disenfranchised, these investments are part of our broader approach to addressing inequalities and strengthening communities through our business practices," says Meron M. Mathias, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Thermo Fisher. "By partnering with organizations like LISC, we are not just investing in projects, we are investing in people and their futures."

Thermo Fisher announced in early 2021 that it would invest up to $25 million in minority-serving institutions to help address the unequal access to capital for Black-owned businesses, Black entrepreneurs and Black communities in the United States. $20 million was committed to the BEDF, which was launched by LISC to increase financing to Black-led financial institutions, anchor institutions, and businesses.


Additionally, Thermo Fisher deposited $5 million in Hope Credit Union's Transformational Deposits program. Hope Credit Union provides financing to low-wealth families, people of color and financially underserved communities to support small businesses, housing, healthcare and other vital needs. The Transformational Deposits program is used to import capital needed to increase economic opportunities for individuals and families across five Deep South states (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana).