DEI, polar bears, and Ted Lasso


Keynote speaker Mia Cary discusses her path to becoming a leading voice in the veterinary profession.

Fetch keynote Mia Cary

Photo provided by Mia Cary, DVM

Fetch dvm360® Conference in Charlotte will kick off with a keynote from Mia Cary, DVM, filled with veterinary lifehacks that every clinician can start using today to work smarter, not harder. We caught up with Cary to learn more about her personal story, the work she is championing, and the inspiration behind her talk.

Can you tell us a little about your work with PrideVMC and the Gender Identity Bill of Rights?

Cary: One of the hats I am honored to wear is CEO of the Pride Veterinary Medical Community (PrideVMC), and one of our big focuses this year is the Gender Identity Bill of Rights (GIBOR). Our DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] working group has a gender identity subgroup, and that group came together last year to create a transitioning guide for veterinary practices. That was the original goal. However, as the working group did their research and saw the information that was already out there, they realized they needed to take a step back and create something more foundational.

The GIBOR is a bill of rights that serves as a moral and ethical guidance document, to quote one of the coauthors, Ewan Wolff, PhD, DVM, DACVIM. It’s such an important document because it outlines the basic rights of any individual regardless of their gender identity—and it’s specifically to support those that identify as either transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming—to make sure that everyone has access to basic human rights. We are focusing on getting individuals and organizations to sign on, show their support, and then start implementing not only this bill of rights, but also coming later this year is a gender diversity guide to help veterinary workplaces put the GIBOR into action.

Can you share your path in the veterinary profession?

Most of us in the vet med space have had multiple phases to their career. I started in research…and I thought I would be spending my entire career working in marine mammal research. And while that was the first 6 years, I quickly learned that I wanted to do some other things, and I landed in veterinary school. In my first year of veterinary school, I fell in love with the clinical aspect of vet med. I graduated with my degree, and I went into small animal practice in Gainesville, Florida. After the clinical phase in my career, I moved on to what I consider my industry phase. I spent 5 years at Novartis Animal Health and 10 years at Boehringer Ingelheim in a variety of roles, including sales, marketing, training technical support, and executive leadership.

I learned so much in that phase of my career, as I have in all phases of my career. I had awesome mentors, and that set me up what I consider my association phase of my career. I spent 5 years working in associations, first with the North American Veterinary Community...and then with the American Veterinary Medical Association....For both of those organizations, I led their educational initiatives and their strategic partnerships.

Three years ago, when I launched out on my own, one of the first [organizations] I reached out to was PrideVMC because I’ve been a member for years and had been awarded their leadership award 2 years prior. I was hired as their CEO…and it’s just such a joy to be able to support the mission and vision of an organization that aligns so much with my personal purpose and mission.

Were you really charged by a polar bear?

Yes! Early in my career, I spent 6 years in whale research. The first part of that phase of my career was down in the Dominican Republic on a sailboat studying humpback whales, no bears anywhere. I found myself, literally a week after leaving the Dominican Republic, in Barrow, Alaska, preparing to start a new stint as marine mammal field researcher studying bowhead whales. We camped out in tents on the polar ice cap in extreme weather, often negative 40 °F, even without the windchill.

One of the things we could do when we weren’t on watch looking for the whales was “chop trail” to keep the trail nice and neat for easy snowmachine travel. I was, this particular morning, on my own chopping trail, and it was actually a gorgeous, sunny day. It felt so good. I looked up and about 100 ft away was what looked to be a younger polar bear. I froze. Of course, he picked up my scent, saw me, and started running towards me.

Thank goodness I didn’t panic and was able to tap into the training that we had all been given. We carried shotguns and were trained how to handle this situation. Luckily, I did not have to shoot the bear! As we were trained, I shot the ice shards near the bear, the ice flew into his face, and he stopped. I jumped on my snow machine and took off away from the bear back to camp. My heart was fiercely pounding as you can imagine. It was very intense, and I am quite happy that I lived through it and am here to share the story. I loved my time in Barrow, loved being out on the ice, and am grateful for all of my Arctic experiences, even the one with the bear.

Your talk revolves around the show “Ted Lasso” and utilizing “smartcuts.” What is a smartcut?

Shane Snow is a researcher and author that has a book called Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, and I stole it from him because I love the idea. It’s better than a shortcut because it really pushes us forward in a positive direction by [accomplishing] 2 things: creating momentum that’s sustainable [and] eliminating unnecessary effort. I use this idea of a smartcut because it gets us from point A to point B in the best and fastest way possible. [The keynote audience] will get to see the smartcuts I use in my life.

Can you share one of the smartcuts you use in your daily life?

I use an app called Todoist, which is an electronic to-do list, [and] it integrates into my calendar. You can pull it up on your phone as well as your computer. Instead of using my email as my to-do list, which sometimes we get in the habit [of doing], I’m conscious of using [the app] to prioritize my time so I’m investing my time and energy into what matters most.

Cary is presenting her keynote session on Friday, April 22 at 8 AM, “What Ted Lasso Teaches Us About Leadership and Life.”

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