The veterinary profession must do better. Whether it’s working to attract more veterinary students from underrepresented populations, doing more in getting veterinary professionals up to speed in cultural competency, increasing understanding that DEI makes good business sense, fosters happier employees, and benefits animal and public health, there is much work to be done.
Following the death of George Floyd, ten DEI affinity organizations came together to address systemic racism in veterinary medicine and to challenge the profession to do better. Their letter and list of actionables was brought to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and has subsequently been endorsed by VMAs, veterinary colleges, individual veterinarians, industry, and others committed to taking action. The actionables are broadly grouped into seven categories appropriate to any organization or individual who wishes to advance DEI in veterinary medicine. In addition, they produced a video featuring the personal stories of 387 veterinarians and veterinary students who have experienced racism and discrimination.
The good news is that positive movement is being made, although it’s important to remember that the journey has barely begun. It’s also important to note that marginalized colleagues should not be expected to do the work on behalf of others. It’s up to those who are privileged to effect change.
The AVMA has implemented new goals within the organization. Together with the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), they’ve created the Commission for a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Veterinary Profession. Made up of representatives from several veterinary organizations and industry, the Commission aims to promote DEI within the profession, expand the student pipeline, encourage welcoming workplaces, as well as encourage and assist VMAs and animal health companies to measure and improve DEI. AVMA has also developed continuing education programs, podcasts, and toolboxes to foster a more culturally conscious profession.
For some time, the AAVMC has been placing importance on diversity and inclusion as it pertains to veterinary student enrollment. They are actively working to attract a more racially and ethnically diverse student population that is more reflective of society and their efforts have resulted in the diversity of the U.S. student population increasing to just over 20% as of 2021. But even at that rate, it will take a long time to change the make-up of the profession.
Colleges of veterinary medicine across the U.S. have also increased their commitment to an inclusive institutional climate by preparing graduates to work in an increasingly diverse world, hiring diverse faculty, and developing programs to attract a more diverse student body.