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September 01, 2020

AVMA, affinity organizations working to advance diversity, equity, inclusion

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Representatives of 10 affinity organizations with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion—led by the Multicultural VMA—met virtually with members of the AVMA Board of Directors and senior AVMA leadership on July 25. The meeting provided a forum for everyone to get to know each other and discuss a letter (PDF) that the organizations sent to AVMA leadership on July 19 outlining actions they would like to see.

The organizations are the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals, BlackDVM Network, Latinx VMA, Multicultural VMA, National Association for Black Veterinarians, Native American Veterinary Association, Pride Veterinary Medical Community, Pride Student VMC, Veterinarians as One for an Inclusive Community for Empowerment, and Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative. The meeting also provided an opportunity for the AVMA to talk about its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

“Everyone agreed that this is the time for action,” according to a July 31 joint report on the meeting. “The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, have changed our world, and have created an increased sense of urgency.”

Affinity group members gave an overview of recommended action items and identified the following priorities:

  • Self-assessment: Explain where the AVMA currently stands in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Accessibility: Ensure an equitable process for all AVMA members, regardless of race, to join and grow within AVMA leadership.
  • Accountability and transparency: Implement processes for which the AVMA will be held accountable with regard to DEI.
  • Expanding membership: Identify opportunities to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive AVMA membership.
  • Organizational commitment: Ensure that AVMA leadership is culturally competent and acting in the best interests of all AVMA members.
  • Investment: Provide financial and structural commitments from the AVMA to improve the state of DEI in veterinary medicine.
  • Outreach and engagement: Advance lasting DEI initiatives among veterinary partners at the AVMA, state VMAs, other veterinary organizations, academic institutions, veterinary practices, and associate veterinarians.

During the meeting, the affinity groups noted they had created a video that featured some of the nearly 400 stories they had collected of veterinary professionals’ sacrifices and struggles with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Later, Dr. Douglas Kratt, now AVMA president, introduced the video when it was presented at the AVMA House of Delegates regular annual session, held virtually July 30-31. Dr. Kratt emphasized that the AVMA is eager to listen, learn, and engage further with DEI organizations.

Discussion at the meeting between the AVMA and DEI organizations then moved to how many of the action items listed by the organizations align with the AVMA’s DEI initiative currently in progress, according to the meeting report. AVMA representatives outlined the AVMA’s work to date and described the following three main DEI strategies:

  • Increase the number of diverse applicants to colleges of veterinary medicine.
  • Build DEI capabilities and capacities within the AVMA staff and volunteers.
  • Build DEI capabilities and capacities of veterinarians and their teams so they can support healthy practices and best serve their clients and communities.

Several AVMA projects are underway that fit under these strategies, such as the Association’s plan to retain outside DEI expertise to help identify areas of greatest need, set priorities, and use resources most effectively in this area.

In addition, the AVMA has ongoing mandatory DEI training for AVMA employees. The Association will consider expanding its training requirements to volunteers, although with a slightly different focus, the meeting report stated.

Another project is the Brave Space Certificate program, set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020 on AVMA Axon, the AVMA’s digital education platform. Pride VMC is the founding education partner for the certificate program. “The program promotes work environments in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. The AVMA has dedicated considerable resources to this program, which was initiated in 2019 and will launch in Q4 2020,” according to the meeting report.

Finally, the AVMA has been in initial talks with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and Veterinary Medical Association Executives, among others, to explore the establishment of a professionwide commission to examine DEI issues affecting the profession. A consensus on the entity’s concept is expected by Oct. 1. The AVMA and DEI-focused organizations planned to meet again virtually in August.

“We recognize that AVMA cannot do this job alone,” the July 31 meeting report stated. “These issues have a long and complex history, extend beyond the AVMA, and of course affect the entire profession and all of organized veterinary medicine. That’s why it is so critical to work together.”


Additional information about the affinity organizations can be found at Wake Up, Vet Med.