Across social media and in the world lies a movement far greater than the infamous COVID-19. As the U.S. stands at the epicenter of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement has plagued this country with systematic problems that are awakening many companies, organizations, and even families. It has promoted change and demanded that racial inequalities and injustices be fixed on every platform.
Within the veterinary community, the veterinary organization that is leading a call for change is MCVMA (Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association). One of the main goals of this association is to create a space where veterinary professionals of diverse backgrounds can network and educate each other. Under the umbrella of 10 affinity organizations the group’s initiative is gaining traction. Several veterinary community partners are already in support of the initiative including: Hill’s Pet Nutrition, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, VETgirl, Association of Shelter Veterinarians, Veteos, Vet Candy, Snout School, and Cary Consulting, University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine, Business Vets, ALD Veterinary Consulting, LLC, and our parent company, Germinder + Associates, Inc.
MCVMA Leadership began the initiative that aims at calling out the systematic racism that exists within veterinary medicine. Tran started a petition in order for the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) to commit to a list of actions that will increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within the veterinary community.
The group started a hashtag on Instagram that promotes what they’re trying to do. The hashtag is #WakeUpVetMed. The message of the hashtag is to get people both in and out of the veterinary field to recognize that there needs to be more diversity and for people to “wake up” and realize that there needs to be a change.
On Saturday, July 25, 2020 the ten DEI (Diversity. Equity, and Inclusion) affinity veterinary organizations met with the AVMA senior staff and members of the Board of Directors to discuss the new list of actions that they would like to be implemented into the profession. The organizations that took part in this discussion were: MCVMA (Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association, VOICE (Veterinarians as One for an Inclusive Community for Empowerment), NABV (National Association for Black Veterinarians, AAVMP (Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals, LVMA (Latinx Veterinary Medical Association), Black DVM Network, PrideVMC (Pride Veterinary Medical Community, PrideSVMC (Pride Student Veterinary Medical Community), WVLDI (Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative), and NAVA (Native American Veterinary Association).
Before the meeting, this group of organizations met to discuss the initiatives they planned to discuss with the AVMA board. On a collective document, the group brought up the history of the veterinary community, specifically the slow rise of the black population over the years. Even after laws were passed such as the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a lack of representation in the work place remained, which is one of the things these groups are trying to call attention to.
Further down the document, the groups listed initiatives and improvements that they believe are necessary in order to improve the veterinary community. Some of these include accessibility of opportunity to grow within AVMA leadership and also accountability of the AVMA to make sure they uphold these standards.
“We were hopeful that Saturday’s meeting would create an ongoing dialogue with AVMA which will lead to transformational and lasting change for the veterinary profession,” said President of MCVMA, Christina V. Tran. “Systemic racism has no place in veterinary medicine — it is time for us to wake up and make change happen!”
After the meeting on Saturday, some of the things AVMA committed to were providing a list of current AVMA DEI programming and projects in development and internally determining if AVMA should hire a DEI consultant to identify whether or not additional staff is needed to focus on DEI work.
“The call to action on DEI is strong and powerful, and working together will make a positive, lasting impact on our profession,” says Dr. Doug Kratt, who began his term as President of the 95,000-member AVMA on July 31. “Valuing diversity and condemning racism are part of a health, thriving veterinary profession. Just as important is putting those values into action.”
The DEI affinity organizations put together a video called, “A Profession in Crisis: Discrimination in Veterinary Medicine” that was introduced by Dr. Kratt at the HOD (House of Delegates) in efforts to further discuss the issues that lie within the profession. Afterwards, the HOD voted for the Board of Directors to implement a list of actions including establishing DEI as its own focus for the association, collaborating with key stakeholders to combat issues, and meeting regularly to update the AVMA on the progress that is taking place within the veterinary community.
As this meeting was the first step to addresses the problems regarding race and diversity within vet life, AVMA and DEI affinity organizations are working collaboratively to fix the systemic racism for the future. A follow-up meeting is planned for the week of August 17, 2020 to share progress, discuss next steps and ensure all involved receive critically important and valuable feedback.
“We need everyone to join to truly make a difference,” said Dr. Lori Teller, chair of the AVMA Board of Directors. “We are a small profession and by working together we can really make a lasting impact. It is time for a broad and truly collaborative effort.”
Organizations with the power to make a change must realize what needs to be done and work to fight social injustices. After seeing what MCVMA and other DEI organizations have striven to accomplish, the future of diversity and inclusion around the world looks brighter.
The mission of the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association is to promote racial and ethnic diversity and cultural competency within the veterinary profession so as to better serve a diverse, multicultural society. For those interested in finding out more, click here. For those wishing to give their formal support/endorsement of the initiative, contact [email protected].
For more information on AVMA’s DEI resources visit the online resource center.