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October 15, 2021

SAVMA stays focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Funding priorities reallocated, among other highlights from meeting
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Veterinary student leaders continued to advance initiatives and ideas relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion during their most recent meeting.

The Student AVMA House of Delegates and SAVMA Chapter Presidents hybrid in-person and virtual meetings occurred July 31-Aug. 1 in conjunction with AVMA Virtual Convention 2021. This was the first time student leaders had a chance to be together in person in two years. Participating in either format were 80 delegates from 39 veterinary schools representing over 17,000 veterinary students.

SAVMA delegates approved two amendments to the SAVMA Bylaws. The first amendment added the language in bold to the SAVMA purpose: “The objective of SAVMA shall be to introduce veterinary students to the concept of organized veterinary medicine; to promote, enhance and support professionalism and veterinary medical education; to advocate for and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellbeing in veterinary medical education and extracurricular programs; and to encourage the development and empowerment of students as leaders in the profession of veterinary medicine and the community as a whole.”

SAVMA House of Delegates and SAVMA Chapter Presidents
The Student AVMA House of Delegates and SAVMA Chapter Presidents hybrid in-person and virtual meetings occurred July 31-Aug. 1. Student delegates passed two bylaws amendments, and SAVMA chapter presidents are working to increase the connection between themselves and SAVMA delegates. (Photos by Hanna Netisingha)

According to the amendment justification: “As SAVMA, we have the responsibility as student leaders to change the organization’s purpose to match the current needs of the profession and our students. Currently, we have recognized the importance of increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and wellbeing in veterinary medical education and veterinary medicine. By including this statement in our bylaws, we make a formal commitment to integrating DEI and wellbeing concepts into all our programming and activities. Last year, we officially signed on the Wake Up Vet Med Initiative. To honor this commitment it is important to set an example for our chapters that SAVMA will lead with principles of DEI and wellbeing in all of our programming and decision making. This simple wording will hopefully inspire our chapters to do the same and to re-commit and frame our activities moving forward to better represent our student bodies and the challenges they face, and to encourage further focus on diversity and inclusion going forward.”

Other updates

SAVMA delegates also heard reports from the officers and the committees.

Some entities changed their funding priorities. For example, the Animal Welfare and Environmental Stewardship Committee and the International Veterinary Experience Committee reallocated some of their funds to COVID relief grants, while the Public Health and Community Outreach Committee redirected money to create a new grant to encourage interdisciplinary projects in one health.

The Integrative Communications and Diversity Committee created, with the guidance of AVMA survey specialists, a Racial Equity, Discrimination, and Bias Survey, which had six sections of questions and was sent to all SAVMA members. The committee also created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Showcase to highlight students’ work and events from different schools, as well as put together infographics on how to support students from historically marginalized groups.

Drs. Arce and Martinez-Jaka
Dr. José Arce, AVMA president, and Hidayah Martinez-Jaka, SAVMA president, both spoke at the SAVMA HOD hybrid meeting.

Hidayah Martinez-Jaka, SAVMA president, has been working on pipeline projects, including a SAVMA Membership Satisfaction Survey, examining Spanish in veterinary education, prioritizing DEI and membership value by speaking on these topics and gathering input from SAVMA delegates to ensure transparency and accessibility, and focusing on workplace dynamics and the connection between veterinary students and veterinary technology students.

Pallavi Oruganti, cultural outreach officer, created a diversity scholarship to the SAVMA Symposium for attendees who attended DEI sessions, hosted a Vet Med United Day webinar and speaker panel on journeys to well-being in veterinary medicine, and proposed the bylaws amendment of SAVMA mission on DEI.

Jonathan Dumas, representative for the chapter presidents, altered how SAVMA chapter presidents conduct business at their annual convention meeting and restructured their working groups to align with desires to build a community of SAVMA chapter presidents who are better equipped to deal with the challenges of veterinary school while supporting the needs of their peers at their respective universities. These changes largely focused on broadening their personal and professional networks through community engagement, the sharing of resources, and the introduction of open forums, which allow students to exchange thoughts and ideas on the basis of personal accounts of shared experiences.

In addition, two new SAVMA chapters were approved, for Long Island University and the University of Arizona.

Guest speakers and elections

Also during the hybrid meetings, a number of speakers addressed the veterinary students.

Among them was Dr. Wanda Wilson-Egbe, chief veterinarian for the National Disaster Medical System. She presented on the role that veterinarians have played in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, an overview of the NDMS, her path in disaster response as a veterinarian, and the opportunities available in this field for veterinarians.

Dr. José Arce, AVMA president, offered words of appreciation for the work that SAVMA does to support veterinary students and the entire veterinary profession.

The SAVMA HOD elected some new SAVMA officers-elect who will start their full term as officers at SAVMA Symposium 2022 in March: Makenna Koslosky, secretary-elect, Utah State University; Blaire MacNeill, treasurer-elect, Colorado State University; Lauren Spendley, editor-in-chief–elect, University of Florida; and Djion Holness, cultural outreach officer–elect, Cornell University.