The time is now for a profession-wide effort to address diversity, equity and inclusion

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(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) August 4, 2020—The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, have changed our world, and have created an increased sense of urgency and deepened commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in society and the veterinary profession.

“The call to action on DEI is strong and powerful, and working together will make a positive, lasting impact on our profession,” says Dr. Doug Kratt, who began his term as President of the 95,000-member AVMA on July 31. “Valuing diversity and condemning racism are part of a healthy, thriving veterinary profession. Just as important is putting those values into action.”

Key to these efforts was a July 25 videoconference between AVMA leadership and representatives of 10 affinity organizations, led by the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association (MCVMA) and collectively referred to as Veterinary Medicine Interconnected (VMI), to review together a comprehensive list of recommended actionables developed by the VMI group and to talk about the AVMA’s current and future DEI initiatives.

“We are grateful to the VMI for engaging with us and for their thoughtful proposals, which reflect a lot of hard work and a clear commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, which the AVMA shares,” said Dr. Rena Carlson-Lammers, outgoing chair of the AVMA Board of Directors. “The actionables proposed by VMI reflect many of AVMA’s current efforts and align with AVMA’s current and planned initiatives.”

The AVMA’s ongoing DEI initiatives include:

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

VMI representatives, who have posted an online petition about DEI and the profession, collected close to 400 individual stories of veterinary professionals’ sacrifices and struggles and produced a powerful video, which was viewed by the AVMA House of Delegates at the beginning of its annual meeting held online July 30 and 31. Dr. Kratt introduced the video, thanked VMI for producing it, and emphasized that the AVMA is eager to engage further with VMI organizations to further support diversity across our profession.

The Board of Directors in their meeting before the House of Delegates committed to retaining an outside DEI consultant to help identify areas of greatest need, set priorities and utilize resources most effectively. The Board of Directors also approved in concept the establishment of a profession- and industry-wide commission to examine DEI issues affecting veterinary medicine. In the second day of its session, the House of Delegates made recommendations to the Board in support of the Board’s commitments and recommended that the AVMA establish DEI as its own strategic focus and to provide timely and regular communications to update the HOD and AVMA/SAVMA membership on DEI progress.

The goal is to define the scope of work and identify consultant candidates by September 15, 2020. In terms of the commission, the AVMA has begun initial conversations with additional key groups, including the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA), Veterinary Medical Association Executives (VMAE) and National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), and will continue to reach out to additional groups to ensure that it is a broad effort. DEI was also discussed in the SAVMA House of Delegates and the SAVMA Chapter Presidents meetings held on Saturday, August 1, and Sunday, August 2.

“We need everyone to join to truly make a difference,” said Dr. Lori Teller, chair of the AVMA Board of Directors. “We are a small profession and by working together we can really make a lasting impact. It is time for a broad and truly collaborative effort.” The AVMA’s goal is to have consensus about the new entity by October 1, 2020.

The AVMA plans to host a follow-up meeting with the VMI representatives and AVMA leadership during the week of August 17, 2020, to share progress, discuss next steps and ensure that all involved receive critically important and valuable feedback.

More information on AVMA’s DEI resources are available on AVMA’s diversity, equity and inclusion online resource center, including a recommended reading list, podcasts, webinars and other resources.

For more information, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA media relations manager, at 847-732-6194 (cell) or msanfilippoatavma [dot] org (msanfilippo[at]avma[dot]org).

About the AVMA

Serving more than 100,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.