For what seems like an exceedingly long time, we’ve been in the trenches caring for the practice, staff, clients, and pets while addressing and respecting Pandemic guidelines and restrictions. I’m hopeful 2021 will begin the start of moving towards our new normal.
We begin 2021 with some good news. Recently, VHMA was invited to serve on the Commission for a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Veterinary Profession. The newly launched commission, organized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), brings together leading veterinary organizations that are committed to acting as champions for social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusiveness (DEI).
Change and outcomes are at the heart of the Commission’s mission and the goals, that are summarized below, are action-oriented. The Commission will work to:
- Promote the value of DEI throughout the veterinary profession
- Increase diversity among veterinarians, veterinary school applicants and enrollees, interns, residents, and board-certified specialists
- Encourage and assist veterinary medical associations and animal health companies to measure and improve DEI
The initiative will move beyond paying lip service to these concepts. One component of the charge is to build awareness, however, in the veterinary industry in particular, what is sorely needed is systemic change. According to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, veterinary medicine is one of the least diverse medical professions in terms of ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. While there have been advances in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field, we all---including individuals, employers, associations, and institutions---must do more.
Gone are the days when simply addressing DEI through annual training programs is acceptable. Components of effective DEI strategies rely on honoring differences, rooting out systemic inequality concealed in the business’ culture, and understanding the many variables that make up your staff’s identity. Evidence shows that when businesses are sensitive to the biases and inequalities inherent in their operations and address them, they can positively impact all aspects of the business.
Ideally, a successful DEI culture includes a broad representation of various cultural and social characteristics. Within such an environment, all stakeholders have access to the same opportunities, treatment, and advancement. It also means that the participants feel part of the organization and not marginalized. Among the benefits that companies that embrace DEI have discovered, is that when employees are proud of their unique characteristics and are allowed to be themselves, teams tend to be more innovative and make better decisions.
The importance of DEI in healthcare
Our clients and staff bring more to the practice than their pets. They bring a unique perspective that has been influenced by their upbringing, race, gender, and economic status. As healthcare providers, we cannot expect to adequately relate to clients if we cannot understand them. Practices that are not attuned to these influencing factors may not be successful at tapping into the potential of employees and establishing a rapport with clients.
Differentiating among diversity, equity, and inclusion
Diversity is a broad term that includes representation from people with a wide range of racial, ethnic, religious, physical abilities, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation and respecting and appreciating what makes them different.
Equity means that everyone receives fair treatment and has equal access to opportunities.
Inclusive organizations accept and value all staff and clients, regardless of their characteristics.
Ideally, all organization, whether the organization is an association, clinic, practice, or hospital, should commit to DEI…and some organizations have. Therefore, it is essential that organizations take inventory to get a clear issue of how well they are doing to promote DEI. Those that have made strides on these issues may not need to introduce widespread change. If the organization, has been indifferent to DEI, the culture and mindset of the organization may require a complete overhaul.
VHMA is constantly seeking ways to grow, improve, and become relevant to a diverse population. At a recent strategic planning meeting, participants discussed the need to incorporate more diversity, equity, and inclusion in our planning efforts. VHMA’s representation on the Commission will assist VHMA in moving forward in this area and implementing change.
As we approach 2021, let hope prevail! Please stay safe and healthy. Most importantly, be sure to take some time to enjoy your loved ones including the four-legged cuddle bugs. Wishing you and your family and friends a year filled with health and happiness.#PracticePulse
Michelle Gonzales-Bryant, CVPM