Celebrating our Veterinary Heroes: Niccole Bruno, DVM

dvm360dvm360 July 2023
Volume 54
Issue 7
Pages: 34
Kansas City

For the third year, dvm360 is recognizing industry professionals who are advancing the field and improving the lives of patients, clients, and staff with our Civic Leader winner, Niccole Bruno

dvm360 is pleased to present the 2023 class of Veterinary Heroes. Nominated by their peers and selected for the recognition by a committee of esteemed veterinary professionals, 15 award recipients were chosen in various veterinary industry roles and specialties in this third annual program.

The Veterinary Heroes recognition program—sponsored by PetSmart (corporate sponsor) as well as Blue Buffalo Natural, Nocita, TruCan and Trufel, Think Anesthesia, MedVet, Mount Laurel Animal Hospital, Nextmune, and Thrive Pet Healthcare (category sponsors)—celebrates the achievements of outstanding veterinary professionals who are advancing the field and making a difference in animal care. These winners will be honored on Thursday, August 24, 2023, in conjunction with a Fetch dvm360 conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Make sure to register for Fetch Kansas City if you have not already!

Civic Leader (community service) winner: Niccole Bruno, DVM

Niccole Bruno, DVM

Niccole Bruno, DVM

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Niccole Bruno, DVM, CEO and founder of blendvet in Katy, Texas, decided it was time to pivot her career and established the certification program blendvet (Blend). Blend, which Bruno refers to as her “brainchild,” provides education on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) to help make veterinary medicine a more inclusive community.

“I wanted to have hospital teams learn together because we work together, we spend so much time together, and it’s important to grow together in that space,” explained Bruno. “We’re learning the medicine, but we need to learn the art of awareness of differences in cultures. How do we connect even as team members? How do we have difficult conversations? How do we navigate conflict? And so much of that came out of the pandemic, when we were dealing with a time that was just so much uncertainty."

“We were shifting and adjusting with veterinary medicine—from curbside to differences in telemedicine and all these things. It was so important to be a team and rely on your teammates and be vulnerable. That was how Blend came out of it because I said, ‘If we could come up with a recipe of how we train and learn together in this space, we could really change culture within veterinary medicine, starting with one hospital at a time.’”

Bruno has since begun speaking at events, and through these interactions, she realized that the DEIB topics were not necessarily embedded in the curriculum at veterinary schools. After realizing the need for these programs, Bruno expanded Blend’s offerings to help train veterinary students.

“We’ve really expanded into academia; we’ve expanded…within the hospital spaces. And we are also now doing student pathway events, which allow us to really help expose students of color and other underrepresented individuals to veterinary medicine,” she said. “When you don’t have that support at an early age—if you say as a 12-year-old, ‘I want to be a vet,’ and then nobody is fostering that and allowing you and showing you the direction to go—it’s easy to just go to another pathway. And so we want to try to use all of the opportunities that Blend can provide to not only educate our veterinary team members, but also [show] them how they can be that bridge and help students also enter our profession. That’s the ultimate dream.”

All this hits close to home for Bruno because she decided she wanted to be a veterinarian at age 13 years. Bruno’s mother then reached out to a family member’s friend, Gerald Givan, DVM. Bruno shadowed him and learned about what it was like being a veterinarian and what it takes to become one. Givan became a role model to Bruno, and she has since run into him all over the country, from an Alicia Keys concert in New York, New York, to the Fetch dvm360 conference in San Diego, California.

Much like her role model, Bruno hopes that Blend continues to expand within the veterinary space to help make sure that everyone who wants to be a veterinarian can enter the profession and know that is a safe and inclusive place for people from every background.

According to her award nominator, “Niccole is a veterinary hero because she experienced a problem in veterinary practice and put her energy toward starting the [conversion], spreading awareness and finding a solution. It makes me immensely proud to see what she is accomplishing and how she is changing the world for the better.”

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