Women’s leadership group goes to school

Three campuses have formed WVLDI chapters, with more on the way
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The Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative has taken hold on veterinary college campuses.

The first three student chapters have formed at Cornell University, Texas A&M University, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the WVLDI announced May 13. They have been officially sanctioned by their respective universities.

Four classmates from Cornell University participate in a mentoring exercise during the course Women’s Leadership in Veterinary Medicine. (Courtesy of WVLDI)

It all started when Dr. Donald F. Smith, former dean of the veterinary college at Cornell University, and Julie Kumble, acting CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, taught a one-day symposium, Women’s Leadership in Veterinary Medicine, to 35 Cornell veterinary students on March 1. The course inspired students to start their own chapter of the WVLDI.

Students at other veterinary colleges became interested in the idea after hearing what the Cornell students did during WVLDI sessions at the Student AVMA Educational Symposium, held in March at Colorado State University.

“The WVLDI board is thrilled with this engagement. From my perspective, the students at SAVMA ignited a fire discussing women’s leadership issues and have done more in a short time than I dreamed possible,” said Dr. Karen Bradley, a founder and president of the WVLDI.

She added, “We’re catching up, actually, to the students.”

The WVLDI, created in July 2013 and formalized as a 501(c)3 in January 2014, provides a platform to facilitate and encourage women to more fully participate in veterinary leadership roles, not only in organized veterinary medicine but also in corporate, government, private practice, and academic positions. The WVLDI board already has a student subcommittee; three members from academia, all located on the campuses of the three founding chapters; and a student member, Cassandra Tansey, who is in her fourth year at Texas A&M.

The WVLDI has encouraged the veterinary students to take ownership of the effort they’ve started and has acted as a resource for the student chapters as they begin. Board members have provided background information on the current state of women in veterinary medicine and offered advice on presentation topics and speakers.

Tansey said, “The purpose of the student chapters mirrors that of the WVLDI: to support women in seeking and achieving leadership, policy, and decision-making positions within all areas of professional veterinary activity. These determined and talented young women are exactly who we need in private practices, in local and state VMAs, and in veterinary colleges, shaping and expanding the future of veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Bradley anticipates the WVLDI board, which next meets during the AVMA Annual Convention in July in Denver, to have a strategic planning session that will include discussion of how to further work and coordinate with the student chapters. Also at the convention, the WVLDI will host eight sessions or other events. Details will be in the convention newspaper and on the AVMA convention website, www.avmaconvention.org.

Dr. Bradley said additional chapters at the following universities could potentially be up and running by the fall: Tufts University, University of California-Davis, Colorado State University, Purdue University, and St. George’s University.

The three existing student chapters have already begun planning and hosting events designed to equip students with the leadership skills they’ll require in the future, such as negotiation workshops and public speaking exercises. In addition, they hope to create a starter kit of sorts for chapters that are forming, such as a sample charter and bylaws and other resources.

Tansey, who is president of the Texas A&M student chapter of the WVLDI and immediate past president of the campus’ student chapter of the AVMA, is also working on creating a WVLDI student chapter board liaison position with SAVMA.

Visit womenveterinarians.org for more information or follow WVLDI on Facebook and Twitter.

Related JAVMA content:

Conquering barriers (Oct. 1, 2013)