Women’s History Month: A Conversation with Dr. Hollis-Ann Stewart
Dr. Hollis Stewart might have the coolest job in the world.
As a veterinarian with FWC’s Florida Panther Project, she spends her time in the depths of wild Florida saving the endangered and iconic big cat. Before working with Florida panthers, she worked with falcons and captive wildlife in Dubai and cheetahs in Namibia. And as a Black woman in science, her career path was not always clear. “I knew I wanted to be a wildlife vet, but I had no guidance. There were no books. There were no mentors,” said Hollis. “I would go into a field course and all the teachers were these older men, but almost every student was a younger female.”
While veterinary medicine is becoming more and more female, the wildlife field is still primarily male and predominantly white. Her work with the Cheetah Conservation Fund took her to Somaliland. The team she traveled with was entirely white Westerners. “When I got there, the local caretaker started crying. She said ‘I didn’t know people like us could do this job,’” said Hollis. “All the foreign vets she had seen were white.”
Before securing her current position, Hollis, whose given name is Hollis-Ann, explained finding work in the wildlife field wasn’t an easy process. “There was this time when I was just going by ‘Ann’,” explained Hollis, “and I wasn’t getting any responses.” But when she submitted the same resumes under the name Hollis, suddenly she started getting interviews. When it comes to encouraging women in her field, Hollis has a few words of advice: “I have a folder of all the rejection emails I’ve ever gotten. It’s important to never give up on something you love,” said Hollis. “Perseverance: There are more walls than doors.”
Our Foundation is a proud supporter of FWC’s Florida Panther Project and Dr. Stewart’s work. Support the location and protection of panther dens and kittens, research into feline leukomyelopathy, tools to treat animals hurt in car collisions, and rehabilitation facilities with a donation to our panther fund or adoption of a panther plush.