Veterinary Medicine and The Diversity Bonus

I’ve been asked many times why I attended the National Association of Black Veterinarians (NABV) inaugural conference last week in New Orleans. My rationale in a nutshell – I love the veterinary profession and I’m a firm believer in the diversity bonus.

#vetmedrocks The veterinary profession is one of the greatest professions on the planet. That being said we should not overlook that there are real challenges that must continue to be addressed such as high student debt, compassion fatigue, and an alarmingly high suicide rate. On the upside, right dab in the center of vet med lies the human-animal bond. There are reams of data supporting positive outcomes for people as a result of human-animal interactions. These include, to name a few, lowered blood pressure, decreased anxiety, reduced symptoms of depression, and fewer nightmares for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The positive pet effect is real.

#careerdiversity Another unique and important attribute of the veterinary profession is career diversity, that is the myriad of career paths that can stem from a veterinary degree. A sample of the smorgasboard of options includes clinical veterinary medicine, public health, research, food safety, public policy, environmental science, education, industry, and the list goes on and on. These are a few of the reasons I love our profession. It is however, a very pale profession. In fact according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary medicine is the whitest profession in America.

Graph from: The 33 Whitest Jobs in America, The Atlantic, November 6, 2013

#diversitybonus This is where the diversity bonus comes in. Scott E. Page is the Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan and author of The Diversity Bonus – How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy. In his book, Page provides evidence that workforce diversity is more than just doing the right thing – in our current knowledge economy it also improves the bottom line of organizations facing complex challenges. Specifically these bonuses include “improved problem solving, increased innovation, and more accurate predictions – all of which lead to better performance and results.”

Additional documented benefits of increased equity, diversity, and inclusion include:

Improved employee retention
Increased creativity
Identification of new markets
Brand image improvement
Increased competitive advantage
Increased profits

Recap – veterinary medicine is a remarkable profession and would be even better if it were more diverse.

Enter the NABV with a mission of increasing the number of black veterinarians. More black veterinarians = a more diverse profession.

Nuggets from the NABV conference:

You can’t be it if you can’t see it
The most important tool to battle ignorance and descrimination is simple conversation (this Heineken ‘Worlds Apart’ commercial nails it)
Cross the divide to change the world
Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common
Recruiting students is about relationships
Mentoring and intentionality are critical
We can’t achieve increased diversity by only celebrating Cinco de Mayo
We must get beyond the BS to the 3Ps – policies, practices, and professionalism
The fourth year of veterinary school is the great equalizer
C = DVM
Increasing diversity is not about lowering the standard, it’s about equalizing the field
We must have intercultural curiosity
It always seems impossible until it’s done (Nelson Mandela)
The best veterinary school is the one you get into
It’s about becoming what you want to be
If you’re the smartest person in the room, get out
Big time losers win, learn to fail well
We have to have some center of spirituality (individually defined) to serve as our base, this keeps us grounded when chaos ensues
Nothing brings people together like something they care about
Remain humble
We must learn to meet people where they are
Your greatest ally might not look like you, stay open
Never look for the drama
“You can’t” is a lie from the pit of hell (agreed, agreed, agreed)
You’re here to be a beast, we all are (damn skippy)
It’s all about showing value
The #1 person in your practice is not your client, it’s your staff. Take care of your staff and your staff will take care of your clients
Be the best you and you will survive
If you can’t sell it on the inside you can’t sell it on the outside
If you’re feeling bullied don’t let it fester. Get help early, take action
Know yourself -> pay attention to your body, pay attention to your mind. Pay attention.
We must erase the stigma and normalize asking for help
We need to be self-aware before we can self-care
Self-care is an active role we all must play
Current veterinary care delivery models are not designed to serve all socioeconomic groups
‘Family’ has been defined by society to include pets = bonded families
One approach will not achieve equity
Control you and what happens around you
Today is the best day of my life and tomorrow will be as well
Choose to not absorb the toxic energy of others. It’s always a choice that’s yours to make
There is never a predictable day in vet med – stay flexible
You are only in competition with yourself
A healthy you creates a healthy environment and a healthy life
Find your spirituality and have fun (#word)
Embrace, enjoy, and fulfil your purpose
Personal observation: iIf we could bottle and share Dr. Sasha Black Perry’s soul and spirit the world would be a much better place
Find the beast in you and eat the world instead of letting the world eat you
It’s my business and I’m not putting up with your junk
This too shall pass
The last time I checked, stressing about a problem did not help
I am unshakeable.

The time, energy, and money invested in attending the NABV Conference was time, energy, and money well spent. Thank you Drs. Annie Daniel, Tyra Davis Brown, Renita Marshall and all the conference and association organizers.

Diversity matters and I’m in. Are you?

Call to action: Read one of the articles or other resources listed below, share an article with a friend or colleague, or create a next step of your own design.

#racialhumility #diveristymatters #equity #blackDVMsmatter #bethemodel #bethechange #dogood #bekind #kickarse #havefun

Resources

7 Surprising Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion
Exploring Veterinary Career Options
Human Animal Bond Research Institute
Suicide Risk in the (Veterinary) Profession Extends Back Decades
The 33 Whitest Jobs in America
The Business Case for Diversity
The Diversity Bonus – How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy
The Other Diversity Dividend
The Pet Effect
White Fragility
Worlds Apart