In today's rapidly evolving world of veterinary medicine, the importance of embracing diversity, equity, and inclusiveness cannot be overstated. As veterinarians dedicated to the welfare of our patients and clients, we must strive to create a more inclusive environment, where the unique perspectives of all individuals are respected and valued.
In honor of World Veterinary Day, join me as we explore the tangible benefits of diversity in our industry, as well as the challenges we face and the steps we can take to ensure a more equitable future for everyone in the veterinary profession.
As a young, Middle Eastern American woman, I have faced my share of discrimination in the industry — both as a student and as a practicing Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. My experiences have taught me that biases exist both above and below the surface.
For example, a colleague recently admitted there was an initial predisposition towards me at a new hospital due to being a relatively younger and female doctor, as opposed to the older male doctors they were accustomed to working with. This occasionally impacted patient care as a result of the tension it created in the communication between the nurses and myself.
In other instances, I have encountered blatant and overt discrimination towards me in the workplace. An office manager once brought up not trusting Middle Easterners to my face. He mentioned this in front of the entire staff, humiliating me even more. I immediately resigned from doing further business with the location and, as a freelancer, had to take the loss in pay in addition to the blow to my ego.
But the damage wasn’t isolated to me. The lack of cultural competency negatively impacted the short-staffed office and ultimately affected patient care by impacting the quality of service they could provide.
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As esteemed veterinary professionals, we must do better. Vets who frequently commend their technicians' intelligence and skills demonstrate a positive approach to how we can check biases, manage assumptions, and promote better working relationships. These doctors humble themselves while uplifting the technicians, emphasizing their crucial role in the team.
By validating the experience of techs who have been in the field for years — no matter how old they are or what they might look like — they acknowledge the invaluable contribution they make to their team, clients, and pets. This is one small step doctors can make to foster a more inclusive work environment.
It's our duty to lead by example, to be mindful of our language in every conversation, and be aware of how our own inner dialogue may affect workplace interactions. However, we must promote a culture of inclusivity at every level within the veterinary practice — between peers, colleagues, employees, office managers, student interns, as well as clients who come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
We must promote a culture of inclusivity at every level within the veterinary practice...
Lila Batiari, DVM
We can remind ourselves that we are stronger together by harnessing the power of our shared experiences. Our collective voice is more powerful when addressing the grievances commonly experienced by so many of our colleagues and advocating for changes to be made.
One of the biggest problems facing the veterinary profession is employee burnout. Burnout is a well-documented issue experienced by vet teams across the country and was recently identified by the AVMA as the No. 1 reason for veterinarians leaving the field — yet we have not done enough to address it.1
By coming together and bridging our diverse backgrounds to share our stories, not only can we help others who may be struggling, but we can also rewrite the narrative that we're not tough enough, or that we're not good enough, or that we're not smart enough to be in this field due to our gender or ethnicity.
We can see past our differences and use them to our advantage when calling for more safety protocols and mandatory mental health breaks. We can use our unique experiences to demand clinics stop overbooking and overworking their staff. We can fight for higher wages and better benefits for ourselves and our teams so that at the end of a grueling shift, we can go home and afford to eat a decent meal, care for our families, and pay off our student loans.
To recognize World Veterinary Day 2023, I challenge you to take a moment and think about what changes you can make in your daily practice to become a better leader and role model for your team. In the end, we all need to work together towards the common goal: creating a truly inclusive profession that benefits not only our colleagues but also the diverse array of clients and their beloved pets who depend on our expertise.
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Lila Batiari, DVM is a relief veterinarian located in San Diego, California. She has a special interest in nutrition, pain management, and surgery! Dr. Batiari enjoys working with Pawlicy Advisor to help others avoid everyday situations that some of her clientele experience. She realizes that expensive vet bills for treatment costs could be much easier for patients with pet insurance.