WVLDI Student Representative
Cassandra Tansey is the student representative on the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI) board and the 2014 Texas A&M Chapter SAVMA President. She is a Texas A&M Center for Veterinary Medicine Class of 2015 veterinary student, Morris Animal Foundation Student Representative and 3VM Curriculum Committee Representative. Goodnewsforpets.com interviewed her for the upcoming SAVMA convention at Colorado State University.
We love pets and we love veterinarians, and we love hearing stories about how each of you decided to choose your field. Can you tell us why you chose veterinary medicine over other medical sciences?
I grew up in a household full of animals of all kinds, so becoming a veterinarian was always on my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up. In high school and college I knew that I wanted to practice medicine in some capacity. I chose veterinary medicine over human medicine because the idea of impacting and improving the lives of people through animal health and welfare appeals to me. The human-animal bond can be transformative, and as a veterinarian I’ll be able to facilitate that.
What area of veterinary medicine do you plan to practice in?
I plan to practice in comparative medicine. It’s a field that uses animal models of human diseases in research to try to improve human and animal health. It tends to be very collaborative, so I’ll get to work with doctors, researchers and other veterinarians.
What is it about veterinary medicine that appeals to you the most?
Veterinary medicine is at the foundation of “One Health,” the idea that human, environmental, and animal health are interconnected. That’s what appeals to me the most about veterinary medicine: the fact that creating healthier, happier lives for animals contributes to the health and wellbeing of society. It’s a powerful concept!
Why do you think veterinary medicine has become a predominantly female profession?
I don’t think it’s surprising that veterinary medicine has become predominantly female. When you look at educational achievement trends over the past few decades, women have earned about 10 million more degrees than men in the last 30 years, and generally have higher grades. There’s been some really interesting research conducted by Dr. Anne Lincoln at SMU on the feminization of veterinary medicine (full disclosure: I co-authored a paper with her as an undergraduate). She found that veterinary medicine became predominantly female not because more women were entering the profession, but because men began avoiding it.
What made you decide to get involved in organized veterinary medicine as a student, and why did you decide to take on both WVLDI and SCAVMA responsibilities?
I decided to get involved with organized veterinary medicine because I think it is the best way to engage with the profession. Veterinary medicine as a whole is facing several challenges right now, and I wanted to participate in the discussion that’s taking place about how to overcome those challenges. The same reason goes for the WVLDI. I think we should be encouraging women in all fields of veterinary medicine to participate in the profession by taking on leadership positions at all levels, whether it’s their local or state VMA or at the national AVMA. Taking on both roles has been a challenge at times, but I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to contribute to veterinary medicine.
What do you hope to achieve as a board member of WVLDI?
I’d like to see a system put in place to match veterinary students interested in leadership roles with veterinarians who are in leadership roles and are willing to be mentors. I think mentorship can be a powerful tool in encouraging students and recent graduates to take on new challenges, and it is important for young women to have someone to use as a role model when trying to figure out how they are going to achieve a satisfactory work/life balance.
Is SAVMA also looking at ways to help prepare women veterinary students to move on as leaders in organized veterinary medicine? Does it help that you are president of both a SAVMA chapter and on the board of WVLDI?
I think SAVMA does a great job encouraging all of its members to get involved in organized medicine, but they don’t necessarily aim those efforts at women. SAVMA has invited WVLDI to participate at the annual SAVMA symposium this year, so they are definitely aware and supportive of our efforts. At Texas A&M, our SAVMA chapter aims at providing professional development opportunities for everyone. I think within the next few years, we’ll see more efforts that focus on women. Holding a SCAVMA position and being a part of WVLDI does help bring these ideas to life at the student level. For example, a few of our board members recently conducted a seminar on women’s leadership for veterinary students at Cornell, and I’d like to see that offered at Texas A&M next year. It’s imperative that we begin encouraging and preparing women to take on leadership roles as soon as possible in their careers, so they feel confident in their ability to take on new challenges.
When Karen Bradley, the current president of WVDLI wrote a guest blog post in Vet Gazette, she said, “We would love for veterinary students to participate and bring their voice to WVLDI platforms! When you speak to other veterinary students about joining WVLDI what do you say they will get out of it?
I tell them that they will be exposed to some of the most passionate and intelligent veterinarians I’ve ever met. They will be joining a community that will support and encourage their professional development and aspirations. Most importantly, they will have an opportunity to network and to find mentors who can answer questions, offer advice, and help them achieve their goals.
What exactly does a veterinary student need to do to participate in WVLDI?
Right now, veterinary students who want to participate in the WVLDI can join our Facebook page and our Linked-In group. There’s also a special forum on the WVLDI website specifically for veterinary students to connect with each other and begin trading ideas. WVLDI will be participating in the diversity forum and VOICE meeting at the SAVMA Symposium, as well as presenting to the SAVMA House of Delegates, so students should come see us! Cornell and Texas A&M are both in the process of setting up student chapters of the WVLDI, and I would love to see that spread to other schools. Any students interested in joining can feel free to contact me at CMTANSEY@cvm.tamu.edu. I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
WVLDI is adding programming at national conferences rapidly so keep checking back at the WVLDI website, Facebook and Linked In pages to see what’s new.