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Bias in veterinary medicine and working toward the future

dvm360 Pride Month Panel Discussion

Why personal growth is more important than avoiding feeling uncomfortable

Content sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition

Erik Zager, DVM, DACVECC: The cliche is, you know, every kid wants to be a vet when they grew up and things like that. But I think it's important for that kid that's in that exam room to know, "Oh, I can be that if I'm gay; I can be a good vet, if I'm trans; I can be a vet, if I'm not in binary; I can be a vet, you know, no matter what." Never underestimate the importance of those little bits of visibility to the community. Because it's not only about the community right now, it's about the future. And we want to demonstrate that you can be successful in this industry, no matter what your sexual orientation, no matter what your gender identity, anything like that.

Jennifer Evans: I even adding to that the intersectionality of being black and gay, right? When we talk about veterinary medicine, 4% is a part of the black community. So to have that kind of representation for them to know those sorts of things, for them to be able to be comfortable connecting like that, and seeing that it's possible. I mean, that's huge.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: So huge. We work so hard nowadays to like inspire children. And I love what Dr Zager just said, because now I can be black and gay and a veterinarian. It's so important to show that representation. And on the flip side, I want to close about talking about bias in veterinary medicine, because I've seen it in practice to where they'll say, "Oh, this gay couple, they have all the money, they're gonna do everything. They're gonna be hyper emotional too because this is their children. And, you know, they put so many more emotional values on on their pets more than straight couples do." I probably want to, but, you know, so what are some of the common biases that you've seen in veterinary medicine in general, whether it be with clientele, or, you know, in the vet space itself? Bash what are your thoughts?

Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM: You know, it's a tough one for me, because when I was raised being gay was abhorrent. I have to underline: your child, you'd prefer your child to be a criminal than you would to be gay. And it was viscerally gut wrenching for people who had gay children, and to be gay was visceral. So to go through that whole thing where your entire life...my entire life through college was like that. I went to a therapist when I was in college who suggested therapy so that I can un-gay myself. You know, I went to a good school. So I'm more likely to perceive things that are biased, that I'm more like, I don't know whether or not what I'm seeing has to do with me being gay or not. I know, I'm a little off topic here. But I promise, Your Honor, I have a point. So I don't know, when I experienced the world, I've been kind of and I don't mean to be a pity party here. But I've kind of been so freaking conditioned that people are going to look at me askew that I'm not sure what I'm seeing is what I'm actually seeing. But that said, I think that that it's really important for people, this whole discussion has been about ways to signal that it's a safe environment. That honestly, man, everybody would do well to kind of just take a breath and sit in the other person's shoes for a while. Walk in the other person's shoes as a way to make sure that you're extracting everything that you can out of those relationships, whether it's with your employees, with your coworker, or with a client. And I'll just leave this...I can remember sitting in a room where Eddie Murphy did that great act, I don't know if you recall, I can't remember the name of the act. But he had that hot leather outfit on those black tight leather pants, and he was up on stage. And the first seven minutes of his set with a stadium filled with probably 10,000 people was about how all the gay men were looking at his ass. And I think that happened inwhen I was in college, and you know, the whole room are all watching the scene. And when you're in that room, you gotta like laugh with that, and you've also got to worry that you're going to be somehow guilty, just by being near that conversation, you're going to be guilty by association. So I think if people can just wake up and try to understand that the world is diverse. I think more and more people are understanding that and just kind of be open to just thinking about that it might help you. It might help you edit your conversations or the things that you say and do that will make it more inclusive.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Absolutely. Jennifer, what about you?

Jennifer Evans: God, I could talk about unconscious bias until I'm blue in the face. But I think that there's a couple of things that are really important to take a deep breath and recognize when someone...This goes right back to believing what somebody says. If you say something and it hurts their feelings you need to be open to receiving that information. And you need to be open to to changing that behavior. I think once someone says something, if you're not open to changing it, you're showing that your being uncomfortable is more important for you to not to be uncomfortable than their feelings and making them feel bad. And I think that that's a a huge thing. It's easy for us to fall back on what we've learned in our morals, and what we've been exposed to in moments like that. But that comes along with being comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to learn and grow and be willing to change or else we are never going to get anywhere. And it's okay to not agree, or it's okay to not be on the same page. But it's not okay to choose your unwillingness to grow over making them feel bad about themselves or feeling uncomfortable. And there are things that are said all the time that people don't recognize that can hurt someone's feelings.When somebody comes up to me, and I'm in practice, and you and I talked about this a little bit last time we chatted. But if I'm if I'm in practice, and somebody comes up and says something about "Oh, your husband," or "Oh this or that," and I'm like, "I like you dudes, but I don't like dudes." And so I'm not going to have a husband. Don't ask me where my children are or how many children I've had or why I haven't had children, because that's none of your business. But you're putting me into this unconscious bias box that you think because I'm a woman I'm going to birth all of these children and be married to a man, and little things like that matter in my opinion.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: You're right you know. It's one thing I'll sure I get asked that question at least once a day in my life: How come I don't have children? And just from being in social media space, everybody asks me like "You're getting another dog, but when is the baby coming in?" It actually kind of annoys me now. It is a personal question, you know...I mean, they want me to be happy because they see that all and it means I'm such a good dad or whatever. But at the same time, I was like that's kind of little bit more crossing the line.

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