Pawsibilities for students with aspirations of becoming veterinary professionals

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Students from marginalized communities in New Haven, Connecticut, took part in blendVET’s Believe and Belong in Veterinary Medicine event aimed at showing them that they, too, belong in the veterinary medicine field

This past week, middle school students from underserved communities in New Haven, Connecticut, participated in the “Believe and Belong in Veterinary Medicine” event created by blendVET—the first certification program in the nation focused on training and educating veterinary professionals on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging topics. During the event, these students were engaged in immersive training activities and learned about the many facets of veterinary medicine.1

This event is one of many pathway events organized by blendVET to give underrepresented students exposure to the veterinary profession and show them that they are represented in veterinary medicine. “blendVET is an idea and a concept I had to try to change the culture of veterinary medicine,” explained Niccole Bruno, DVM, CEO and founder of blendVET, in an interview with dvm360. “Even working and living in New York City, I did not see the diversity in the profession that I wanted to pursue, and so I think that can cause barriers for students of color.”2

This event, which took place at Highville Charter Middle School in New Haven, provided students with the opportunity to learn alongside a diverse group of veterinarians at different training stations including those focusing on surgery, emergency room, general practice, and zoo medicine. At these stations, students learned basic suture techniques and how to repair broken bones, perform CPR, and care for exotic animals. They were also able to observe physical examinations and nail trimming being performed and were given surgical gowns of their own.1

At the end of the day, participants received a certificate confirming their completion of 6 hours of education in veterinary medicine and were provided with a roster of local veterinarians that offer shadowing opportunities.1

Students practice surgical suturing. (Photo Courtesy of the North American Veterinary Community)

Students at the “Believe and Belong in Veterinary Medicine” event practice surgical suturing. (Photo Courtesy of the North American Veterinary Community)

“I want [these students] to just know that even if someone tells them that they can’t do it…I want them to prove [that person] wrong. They can do it, they’re all capable. And many times, when kids doubt themselves it’s because they don’t have that sense of encouragement, and I want them to at least know that there’s a community here that will love them and support them if they have questions… all they have to do is contact us and we will get them support, mentorship, whatever we need to do to help them stay on this pathway,” emphasized Bruno in a video by the American Animal Hospital Association.3

According to a 2023 survey, 68% of White, 66% of Hispanic, 34% of Black, and 37% of Asian adults in the United States own at least 1 pet.4 Yet, a 2023 survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that only 10% of veterinarians are racially diverse, with 1.3% consisting of Black veterinarians, and 5.9% and 7.9% comprising Asian and Hispanic or Latino veterinarians, respectively.5

“We are the least diverse medical profession," said Bruno in the interview.2 "As a practicing [veterinarian], so often I’ve worked in hospitals where I’m the only doctor of color, and sometimes the only person of color, and I do think that that pulls a disconnect that we have in our ability to work with our clients of diverse backgrounds and even encouraging people to join our profession.”

blendVET has worked with K-12 schools in underserved communities in Nashville, Orlando, Miami, St. Petersburg, and San Diego since 2022 to provide these communities with “Believe and Belong in Veterinary Medicine” pathway events. Their latest event was hosted in partnership with the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC).1

Participants practice conducting physical exams. (Photo courtesy of the North American Veterinary Community)

Participants practice conducting physical exams. (Photo courtesy of the North American Veterinary Community)

"We're proud to have partnered with blendVET for this wonderful event that inspires and opens doors for young people to explore career opportunities in veterinary medicine, especially those underserved and not well-represented in today's veterinary industry. We look forward to continuing to offer opportunities for underrepresented youth to pursue veterinary careers," Gene O'Neill, CEO of NAVC, said in a news release.1

"This event is extremely important to realizing more diversity in our field of veterinary medicine. The students had an immersive experience and envisioned themselves as veterinary professionals one day," explained Bruno in the release.1 "Giving back to the community has always been important to me… I enjoyed engaging with the students, and it's rewarding to be able to show them what this field entails and the opportunities available to them."

Further striving towards blendVET’s goal of inspiring the next generation of veterinarians in underserved communities, the organization hosted a parent session on June 11, 2024 to help them learn ways to offer guidance and support their student’s pathway into veterinary medicine.1

References

  1. New Haven middle school students scrubbed in as veterinarians for the day. News release. North American Veterinary Community. June 7, 2024. Accessed June 10, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-haven-middle-school-students-scrubbed-in-as-veterinarians-for-the-day-302167026.html
  2. McCafferty C. Meet Niccole Bruno, DVM. dvm360. February 17, 2023. Accessed June 11, 2024. https://www.dvm360.com/view/meet-niccole-bruno-dvm
  3. blendVET’s DEIB focus inspires the next generation of veterinarians in underserved communities–American Animal Hospital Association. YouTube. February 16, 2024. Accessed June 11, 2024. https://youtu.be/Sg5wcLgQK30?si=_mtStAuEVBho28tO
  4. Brown A. About half of U.S. pet owners say their pets are as much a part of their family as a human member. Pew Research Center. July 7, 2023. Accessed June 11, 2024. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/07/07/about-half-us-of-pet-owners-say-their-pets-are-as-much-a-part-of-their-family-as-a-human-member/#:~:text=Most%20Americans%20own%20pets%2C%20but,Black%20adults%20are%20pet%20owners
  5. Labor Force Statistics From The Current Population survey. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 26, 2024. Accessed June 11, 2024. https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm
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