AVMA symposium attempts to tackle diversity

AVMA symposium attempts to tackle diversity

Panel members says they are not surprised at symposium attendance
Sep 01, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS — Critics of veterinary leadership want a more diverse veterinary population, and they are willing to take their case to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to promulgate it.

Convention News
Talk includes opening college accreditation process to incorporating diversity and going to AVMA headquarters demanding a resolution.

"There are not enough qualified minority students applying to colleges of veterinary medicine," says Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, dean, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. "That is at no fault of the AVMA, but as the governing body of the profession, it should be their concern as to why that is the case."

Enhancing the profession by making veterinary medicine a more provocative option to minority students is the intention of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and the panel of speakers at the AVMA diversity symposium in Minneapolis.

Those working on improving diversity shortcomings in the profession are becoming less patient on association action and are vocalizing their concerns and pushing for solutions.

Table 1. How diverse are veterinary classes?
"The minority group is vastly under represented in our veterinary schools, says Ronnie Elmore, DVM, MS, DACT, Kansas State University associate dean for academic affairs and admissions. "Recruiting a diverse veterinary student body is even more important now. The profession is facing a human resource crisis and needs to increase class sizes, increase number of schools and encourage growth, according to the AAVMC.

The national veterinary applicant pool has remained flat the last three or four years, while other health professions have increased significantly.

"If demand for veterinarians is increasing, why are applicants staying flat. There is an untapped group of people within the population. It's not only the right thing to do — to have more diverse profession, but also smart to fill need for vets," Elmore adds.

Why diversity matters

A diverse population within the profession has been a topic of discussion for years, contends Patricia Lowrie, MS, director of the Women's Resource Center at Michigan State University and assistant to the dean in the college of veterinary medicine.

"This isn't a new issue, and it's time to take action on making the changes. What is it going to take for the Council on Education (COE) to make this a standard requirement for accreditation? A system needs to be in place to have a diverse student body."

10 steps to increase number and diversity in veterinary classes:
While not all panel members were as optimistic with the COE making a radical motion to alter its format, there were suggestions of other options.

"We might need to ride a bus up to Schaumburg (Ill.) for a talk, but COE isn't going to happen," Blackwell says. "Additional conversations need to take place."

The mediator of the day-long event, Dr. Evan Morse, chairman of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association Diversity Task Force, says he hopes the symposium will serve as a beacon, guiding the profession toward frank and open discussion on diversity.