The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) believes that diversity and inclusion make for a stronger organization and profession, and is celebrating Pride Month by sharing stories of LGBTQ+ veterinarians and their colleagues.
The AVMA has been a long-time supporter of the Pride Veterinary Medical Community (formerly LGVMA). Through this partnership, the organizations collaborate to support veterinary students and professionals who identify as LGBTQ+ as well as LGBTQ+ clients.
“We believe diversity fosters a climate conducive to success for all members of the veterinary medical community and affirms the value of human diversity for the enrichment of our communities,” said Dr. Janet Donlin, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “The AVMA believes that diversity and inclusion make us stronger, which is why we stand up in support of our LGBTQ colleagues during the month of June.”
Dr. Melinda Merck, president of the Pride Veterinary Medical Community, says the effort to recognize LGBTQ+ veterinarians, students and colleagues is an important step in improving their wellbeing.
“Being LGBTQ can create additional stressors, such as the inability to be authentic and to feel safe,” said Dr. Merck. “If we can’t be our authentic selves, or feel safe in that authenticity, it creates barriers that hinder our relationships with coworkers and clients, and can ultimately have a negative impact on our animal patients.”
Dr. Merck said that while tremendous strides have been made in LGBTQ+ acceptance and inclusion, there is still more progress that needs to be made. “We have some areas of the country or in the profession where people feel comfortable coming out and being authentic, and others … not so much,” Dr. Merck said. “Is it OK to come out? To be authentic? It’s scary to try to find out if it’s OK. In addition, even with all the progress we’ve made, there’s no guarantee that we’ll maintain those gains. It doesn’t take much to step back, which is why these efforts are so important.”
The Pride VMC recently launched a new website, PrideVMC.org, which includes more information about the organization, links to resources and further education, and a calendar of upcoming events.
LGBTQ+ events at AVMA Convention 2018
Collaboration between the AVMA and Pride VMC will continue in July, with Pride VMC hosting a town hall at AVMA Convention 2018 on July 14 in Denver. Titled “Be Your Authentic Self,” this group discussion will allow LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals to learn from their colleagues how they deal with stigma, barriers and personal empowerment in practice. Pride VMC will also host its board meeting, as well as its annual meeting and networking reception, at AVMA Convention 2018 on Saturday, July 14, from 5-7 p.m. This will be followed by AVMA’s inaugural “Live Life, Love All” event from 7-11 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver, a celebration of the diversity of the profession featuring live music by the Barkin’ Cats, a DJ and refreshments.
“Revealing Hidden Biases: How It Can Impact Our Ability To Provide Successful Veterinary Care,” a panel discussion presented by the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI) and Pride Veterinary Medical Community, will help attendees identify personal biases that may hinder communication with a client regarding pet care and compliance, and find ways to increase understanding and foster empathy towards clients and co-workers. This session will be held Saturday, July 14.
On Sunday, July 15, AVMA Convention 2018 will hold a session titled “Creating Inclusive Classrooms And Clinic Settings For Transgender And Gender Expressive Students, Colleagues And Clients.” This presentation serves to raise awareness about gender identity and expression as a means of increasing cultural competency in veterinary medicine and provides actionable tips that can be employed in both classroom settings and within veterinary clinics to create inclusive safe spaces for transgender and gender expressive people.
Finally, on Monday, July 16, the AVMA will host a session at its annual convention titled, “Health and Well-Being Among LGBTQ Veterinary Professionals: What It Is and Why It Is Different.” In this session, attendees will hear about the primary results of the 2016 LGBTQ Veterinary Wellness Survey, consider the intersection of wellness risk factors for LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals and students, and discuss future directions for wellness programming among LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals and students.