Events, sessions highlight profession’s diversity at AVMA Convention 2024

Attendees have countless ways to embrace DEI in the veterinary community

Updated May 09, 2024

AVMA Convention 2024 will bring together veterinary professionals from every demographic, background, and professional sector from June 21-25 in Austin, Texas. This year’s convention provides plenty of opportunities to network and gain more knowledge, especially for those who are interested in celebrating and learning more about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Special events

Things kick off with Food Festival Friday, happening from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central on Friday, June 21. The event helps celebrate Juneteenth, which is Wednesday, June 19, the oldest-known celebration marking the end of slavery in the U.S. and first recognized by Texas. The event will feature a wide variety of Texas cuisine and performances from local African-American musicians, including soul musician Aaron Stephens.

An annual favorite, the Live Life, Love All event, is back and taking over a part of Austin’s historic Sixth Street from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. The party that celebrates DEI will take place at Bull & Bowl (501 W 6th St.), which features duckpin bowling, private karaoke rooms, arcade games, and mechanical bull riding. Attendees will also enjoy a silent disco where they can control the music delivered straight to their headsets from live DJs. This fun and inclusive experience takes place after the Technician Appreciation and Young Professionals events that run from 6-7:30 p.m. at the same location.

Robust programming centered on the importance of DEI is scheduled throughout the day on Sunday, June 23.

A group of people dancing at a party
Attendees at AVMA Convention 2024 can dance and celebrate diversity at the Live Life, Love All event on Saturday, June 22, at Bull & Bowl in Austin, Texas.

Starting off will be Pride Veterinary Medical Community’s (PrideVMC) town hall meeting, “Where Are We Now? Meeting Current Challenges Facing the LGBTQ+ Veterinary Community” at 9 a.m. in room 14 at the Austin Convention Center. It will be led by Drs. Ewan D. Wolff, Dane M. Whitaker, and Mia S. Cary.

This session will address current challenges facing LGBTQ+ identified individuals in veterinary medicine as well as how they are rising as a community to meet these challenges within the profession. PrideVMC board members will meet with participants in a panel discussion to share personal experiences with confronting issues as they pertain to LGBTQ+ identity.

Later on, at 10:30 a.m. at Center Stage in the exhibit hall, Latonia Craig, EdD, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at the AVMA, will interview Dr. Ruby Perry, this year’s recipient of the Frederick Douglass Patterson Award. The award goes to an AVMA member veterinarian who has made significant contributions to the veterinary profession through innovative and transformative leadership in promoting DEI. Dr. Perry is dean of Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, the only veterinary program located at a historically Black college or university.

Immediately following that will be the Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition’s (DVMC) event, “Diversifying Veterinary Medicine: A Celebration of Rising Leaders with the DVMC” at 11 a.m. at Center Stage. DVMC will have up-and-coming leaders to talk about their experiences in veterinary medicine. The DVMC was created in 2020 by industry organizations to meet the needs of the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community and other underrepresented groups interested in veterinary education. The nonprofit provides scholarships and education grants.

At 2 p.m., there will be a “DEI Legends” panel discussion at Center Stage led by Patricia Lowrie, a longtime advocate for DEI in veterinary medicine. She will interview Drs. Perry, Willie Reed, Phillip Nelson, and Michael Blackwell, who are current or former deans of veterinary colleges. They will discuss their experiences in veterinary medicine as minorities and leading the charge for diversity.

And finally, at 2:30 p.m., the second Unsung Heroes awards will be given out at Center Stage, in which the AVMA will honor six veterinary team members from Texas. The AVMA launched the Unsung Heroes awards program at AVMA Convention 2023 in Denver by honoring five veterinary team members from Colorado.

A group of high school students stand behind cows during an educational session led by two veterinarians
Drs. Vernard Hodges and Terrance Ferguson, the veterinarian stars of the Nat Geo Wild series “Critter Fixers,” will teach high school students about the veterinary profession during the Vet for a Day event on Monday, June 23.

Craig previously described an unsung hero as a person who has made significant contributions or demonstrated exceptional qualities but has not received the recognition or praise they deserve. They may have selflessly helped others or made positive changes in their community. Unsung heroes are often humble, dedicated, and driven by a genuine desire to make a difference.

This program shines a light on those staff members—including veterinary technicians, customer service representatives, and kennel workers—who have embodied a level of commitment that surpasses expectations.

On Monday, June 24, Austin-area high school students interested in careers in veterinary medicine will have a chance to learn firsthand from experts. Drs. Terrence Ferguson and Vernard Hodges of Nat Geo Wild’s “Critter Fixers” reality TV show are once again hosting their Vet for a Day clinic, beginning at 9 a.m. The program gives future veterinarians an immersive look into the world of veterinary medicine. The Critter Fixers and other volunteer veterinarians will offer the students hands-on demonstrations of suturing, ultrasounds, and CPR, on molds and other simulated equipment.

Continuing education

In addition to those events, the convention will have a wealth of continuing education (CE) sessions that touch on several topics relating to DEI. Experts from Journey for Teams, the AVMA’s flagship DEI initiative, will give six presentations throughout the convention. They are:

  • “Journey for Teams: A Roadmap for Improved Workplace Culture and Team Engagement” by Dr.  Marci Kirk, an assistant director in the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division, at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 21
  • “Journey for Teams: Brave Spaces” by Dr. Mia S Cary, CEO of PrideVMC, at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 23
  • “Journey for Teams: Embracing Gender Diversity: Exploring Gender Identity” by Dr. Ewan D. Wolff, internist at BluePearl NE Portland and co-author of PrideVMC’s Gender Identity Bill of Rights, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 23
  • “Journey for Teams: Allyship” by Lisa Greenhill, EdD, chief diversity and inclusion officer at the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 24
  • “Journey for Teams: Psychological Safety” by Jen Brandt, PhD, AVMA’s director of member wellbeing and diversity, at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 24
  • “Journey for Teams: The Art of Retention” by Dr. Kemba L. Marshall, founder of Marshall Recruiting Consortium, at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 24

Other DEI-related CE sessions at the convention center include the following:

  • “Addressing Imposter Syndrome and Second-Generation Gender Bias in the Veterinary Workplace” by Dr. Donna Matthews Jarrell, the founder of Speculo Coaching, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 22
  • “Myth Busting Gender Differences in Job Searches” by Drs. Christina V. Tran, founding dean for Hanover College’s proposed School of Veterinary Medicine, and Stacy L. Pritt, a founding member of the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 22
  • “Intentionally Creating an Inclusive Learning Culture in Veterinary Practice” by Dr. Tran and Melody Martinez, president of the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association (MCVMA), at 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 23. Preregistration is required.
  • “Culturally Responsive End of Life Care” by Dr. Marie S. Quicksall, immediate past president of the MCVMA,, at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 23
  • “The Myth of the Model Minority: Exploring History of the Myth and Its Continuing Impact on Asian American Veterinarians” by Drs. Katherine Fogelberg, associate dean for professional programs at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; Jean Yin Tan, associate professor of teaching and chair of the clinical skills program at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary medicine; and Tran; at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 23
  • “Microaggressions and Their Impact on Health and Wellbeing” by Dr. Quicksall and Martinez at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 23
  • “Creating the Future of Veterinary Medicine Through Diversification of Practice Ownership” by Dr. Gerelyn A. Henry, director of the Veterinary Health Center and professor at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 24
  • “Neurodiversity in a Neurotypical Veterinary World” by Dr. Laurie McCauley, the owner of Red Tail Rehab and Optimum Pet Vitality, a teaching platform for veterinary professionals and pet parents, at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 24

Find out more about these and other convention sessions and events by visiting the AVMA Convention 2024 website and its CE schedule.

More DEI resources and events coming soon

As Journey for Teams continues to expand, keep an eye out for another new program initiative, Educational Sharpenings, to be announced in early summer. So far, Journey for Teams has created 16 educational modules that allow teams to explore, discuss and better understand DEI topics.

In addition, the AVMA will be hosting its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Wellbeing (DEIW) Summit later this year. Taking place November 7-9 in Atlanta, the summit will be a gathering of a community united by the shared goal of fostering environments where creativity, wellbeing, and collaboration flourish. The event is presented in partnership with the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). The DEIW summit will build on the successes of other DEI and wellbeing initiatives by creating an immersive experience of shared learning and growth for those eager to dive beyond the surface of these important topics. Registration will open in August.