Journey for Teams to help veterinary workplaces incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion

The AVMA is co-launching a multiyear educational initiative to help veterinary workplaces become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

The upcoming Journey for Teams program is under development by the AVMA and the Veterinary Medical Association Executives. Details were provided in an announcement event July 30 at AVMA Convention 2022 in Philadelphia, and program content will be released in stages beginning this fall.

Journey for Teams logo

The AVMA and VMAE plan to deliver monthly learning modules for about 30 months on topics related to DEI on the project’s website. Those modules will be approximately 15 minutes in length, which includes time to discuss the issues and make plans for lasting changes in a practice. Past modules will remain available. More information is available at journeyforteams.org. Veterinary professionals are invited to sign up on the website to join the program or receive more information about it.

Journey for Teams is a nationwide initiative that is the Association’s most ambitious DEI undertaking to date, said Dr. José Arce, 2021-22 AVMA president, during the announcement. 

“It is a comprehensive and collaborative process to be incorporated into every sphere of activity within veterinary medicine,” he said.

Adrian Hochstadt, CEO of the VMAE, said this national program follows last year’s launch of the original Journey program by the VMAE, which provided VMA executive directors and elected leaders tools and resources to advance DEI. 

He pointed out that a recent survey showed that more than 60% of VMAE members are using Journey to support their DEI initiatives.

Development and implementation of the national Journey for Teams program will be overseen by Dr. Latonia Craig, the AVMA’s new chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, who begins her newly created role Aug. 31.

Dr. José Arce
Dr. José Arce, 2021-22 AVMA president, gives his remarks during the announcement on Journey for Teams Saturday at AVMA Convention 2022. This nationwide initiative is being developed by the AVMA and Veterinary Medical Association Executives to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion training to veterinary workplaces. (Photos by Malinda Larkin)

Ralph Johnson, AVMA director of special projects, has led the development of the national program and said the program is intended to deepen veterinary professionals’ knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion and help them act on that deepened knowledge. By supporting the people who want to do that work, he said, the program can help instill a sense of curiosity, foster respectful dialogue, and inspire teams to better understand and embrace DEI concepts and behaviors.

He also said the journey is—as its name implies—intended to be a sustained effort. Participating workplaces are invited to express their commitment by building DEI concepts into their mission or value statements.

Additionally, participants will learn about foundational issues within DEI and see how they can make their workplaces more welcoming and better serve their communities.

And participants can choose how they use the program. Some may delve into the foundational concepts around DEI first, whereas others may use it to continue work already started. 

Dr. Wheeler
Dr. Randy Wheeler, president of the VMAE, expresses his support for the Journey program. To ensure a collaborative approach, the AVMA and VMAE are working with veterinary and animal health organizations who have an aligned commitment to DEI  and have signed on as educational partners.

Every journey needs a navigator, Johnson said, and the program provides opportunities for individual team members to serve as a Journey leader in their workplace to guide discussions, identify possible actions, and monitor progress on those actions. 

At press time, the AVMA and VMAE were recruiting contributing authors who will write personal perspectives on the broad spectrum of topics that will be addressed in the Journey Guide and in the educational modules. The associations were also working to create a digital library of tools for those who want deeper knowledge of those issues.

Journey for Teams is working with collaborating partners that are broad coalitions or national associations. Outreach continues, and the initial groups who have committed their participation are the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and the AVMA–American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Commission for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Veterinary Profession. 

To ensure a collaborative approach, the AVMA and VMAE are working with veterinary and animal health organizations who have an aligned commitment to DEI and have signed on as educational partners. These organizations will help raise awareness and engagement by contributing their knowledge and expertise to the program as well as financial support and resources. The educational partners are Mars Veterinary Health, Nationwide Insurance, the North American Veterinary Community, NVA, Viticus Group, and Zoetis at the Trailblazers level and CareCredit, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Merck Animal Health, Petco, and Suveto at the Adventurers level.

Dr. Jenkins
Dr. Christine Jenkins, Zoetis chief medical officer and vice president of veterinary medical services and outcomes research of U.S. operations, says because of the efforts of many organizations in veterinary medicine, the profession is starting to see solution-based strategies around DEI.

Dr. Janet Donlin, AVMA CEO, said at the announcement that she was excited about the program and deeply grateful to the educational partners.

“What is very exciting about Journey for Teams is that it is something that’s available to every member of the veterinary team,” she said. “That is so critical because that is what’s going to make a difference, and it’s also going to be available at no cost to participants, and that is possible thanks to these special partners.”

Also speaking at the announcement was Dr. Christine Jenkins, co-chair of the AVMA-AAVMC DEI commission and Zoetis chief medical officer and vice president of veterinary medical services and outcomes research of U.S. operations.

She said, “We recognize that this journey can be difficult, but we also recognize by challenging each other … that ultimately what we deliver to create change will have maximum impact.”

Dr. Randy Wheeler, president of the VMAE, said, “Moving forward will require the efforts and dedication of literally thousands of people from coast to coast, in workplace settings large and small. The AVMA and the VMAE and partners are ready to lead and provide essential support.”

A version of this article appears in the August 2022 print issue of JAVMA.