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September 01, 2020

President Kratt wants unified, inclusive profession

The former AVMA Future Leader pledges to serve and listen to members
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Dr. Douglas Kratt’s agenda as AVMA president is simple.

We are veterinarians; we meet challenges head-on. It is what we do.

“My mission is to listen, serve, and connect with (AVMA) members; to build within our profession; bring together shared interests; and to be more inclusive,” Dr. Kratt said.

The small animal practitioner from La Crosse, Wisconsin, and incoming AVMA president spoke in a prerecorded video that aired during the regular annual session of the AVMA House of Delegates on July 30. For the first time, the HOD meeting was held virtually, as a result of safety precautions relating to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Kratt
2020-21 AVMA President Douglas Kratt

“The AVMA will continue to support our members by working on personal mental health and well-being, student and early-career debt load, and diversity and inclusion,” Dr. Kratt said. “Yet, we need to still advocate for and advance our profession by advancing the science and practice of veterinary medicine to improve animal and human health.”

Dr. Kratt noted the turmoil of recent months, from the devastating Australian wildfires and impeachment of President Donald Trump to the novel coronavirus pandemic and push for social justice. “It is clear that civil unrest and calls for justice deserve our time and attention,” he said. “I am making—and will continue to make—an intentional effort to listen more, learn more, and do more.”

He recalled when, as a member of the 2012-13 class of AVMA Future Leaders, he read an American Medical Association study about people preferring to seek medical care from people they relate to and look like. That people of color are often treated differently by institutions and individuals may be news to many people, but it isn’t to people who feel marginalized, Dr. Kratt said.

“We must address these issues as individuals, as businesses, and as organizations,” he insisted.

What do diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice have to do with veterinary medicine? The answer can be as simple as they’re the right thing to do. Dr. Kratt said that “99.9% of our DNA is the same. We are equals.

“For those that want more of a ‘What is in it for me?’ answer, it is as simple as it makes good business sense, as it helps meet the needs of a growing population of people who will become our potential clients.”

Dr. Kratt said that he, as a white man from a conservative area of the Midwest, needs to make an intentional effort to learn more about why diversity is part of a healthy, thriving profession—and how to put those principles into action.

“Increased diversity improves access to health care in the United States in regions where severe ethnic and racial disparities exist,” he said. “Studies show researchers with more diverse backgrounds and experiences shape their critical thinking at a higher level, which leads to accelerated advances in public health and medical research.

“All of this sounds like it is good for business and our profession.”

At a minimum, recognize that this work is challenging and uncomfortable, and then commit to doing it anyway, Dr. Kratt continued. “Our biggest mistake will be to take no action at all,” he said.

Dr. Kratt also praised the AVMA for how well it has supported members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Association was a leading advocate for the federal Paycheck Protection Program and subsequent amendments, he said, provided valuable updates and resources to keep veterinary professionals safe while continuing to see patients, and educated the public about the virus’s impact on animal health.

“The AVMA is here,” Dr. Kratt said, “not just in times of crisis, but 365 days a year.”

Dr. Kratt isn’t worried about how veterinary medicine will fare in a post–COVID-19 world. “We are veterinarians; we meet challenges head-on,” he said. “It is what we do. This is our passion. This is our profession. This is our AVMA.”