Reflecting on AAPI heritage month


A conversation with Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals’ cofounder Hira Basit

Hira Basit, DVM

Hira Basit, DVM

As we celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month last month, I had the pleasure of talking with Hira Basit, DVM, one of the founders of the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals (AAVMP). Basit shares the inspiration behind the creation of this vital organization and the pivotal role it plays in promoting diversity and inclusion within the veterinary industry.

The inspiration behind AAVMP

The founding of the AAVMP was driven by a profound need to address the underrepresentation of AAPI individuals in veterinary medicine.

"I was inspired to create an organization where AAPI individuals could have a platform to showcase all the awesome things they have achieved in our profession. I also wanted my AAPI colleagues to find solidarity through an organization that reflects our society’s diversity," reflected Basit

This mission is not just about representation; it's about providing support through advocacy, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities, ensuring that AAPI professionals can thrive in a field where they have historically been underrepresented.

Overcoming challenges

Establishing a national non-profit organization while still in veterinary school posed significant challenges. Basit credits the success of AAVMP to the collaborative efforts of the initial team, including Stephanie Kuo, Effie Makrygiannis, Kelly Hicks, and Chloe Pham.

"Our organization’s history exemplifies that enacting change takes collaboration and innovation," Basit stated. This teamwork laid a strong foundation that continues to support the organization's growth and impact.

Promoting diversity and inclusion 

The AAVMP stands as a beacon of diversity and inclusion within the veterinary community. Basit envisioned the association as a collective of AAPI professionals dedicated to core values such as representation, mentorship, advocacy, and fellowship. "We wanted our organization to be a resource for AAPI individuals and allies to the AAPI community," Basit explained.

Kaori Sakamoto, current president of AAVMP (left) and Christa Lam (right) digital communications director.

Kaori Sakamoto, current president of AAVMP (left) and Christa Lam (right) digital communications director.

By highlighting the diverse backgrounds within the AAPI veterinary community, AAVMP aims to educate others on how recognizing an individual’s background can support career growth and opportunities.

Unique contributions of AAPI veterinary professionals

AAPI veterinary professionals bring invaluable experiences and perspectives to the field. Basit points out that these professionals often possess a deep understanding of various cultural beliefs, enabling them to provide more empathetic and culturally sensitive care.

"AAPI professionals provide valuable input in a predominantly Caucasian field when it comes to collaborating on strategies towards access to care, cultural competency, and general equity and inclusivity," she said.

However, she also notes the importance of personal choice in advocacy, acknowledging that the responsibility to educate and advocate can be both rewarding and exhausting.

Supporting professional development

The AAVMP is dedicated to the professional development of Asian veterinarians through a variety of initiatives. These include a mentorship database, scholarship opportunities, educational content, student outreach, and platforms for showcasing members’ stories. "Our core values together enable us to advance the profession further while inspiring, empowering, and supporting AAPI veterinary professionals," emphasized Basit.

Recognizing and celebrating AAPI heritage 

Representation is crucial in fostering a diverse and inclusive profession. Basit highlights that according to a 2020 AVMA survey, only 5.5% of veterinary students in the US identify as AAPI, and a 2022 NAVTA demographics report showed over 94% of veterinary technicians are of non-AAPI backgrounds.1,2 "With how small of a percentage AAPI individuals make up, it is easy for those who are AAPI in this field to feel alone," she shares. Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month is essential for highlighting the contributions of AAPI professionals and educating the broader community on important issues from an AAPI perspective.

Looking to the future

Looking ahead, Basit sees a bright future for AAVMP. Although she is no longer an active board member, she expresses confidence in the current leadership's efforts to evolve the organization, including the current President, Kaori Sakamoto, and members of the board of directors and executive committee.

"I know our current executive board and board of directors are hard at work trying to imagine the next steps for the organization," she said, anticipating a more structured membership process and further outreach in the years to come. As for aspiring Asian veterinarians, Basit offers heartfelt advice.

"The biggest thing I wish more people told me was that I am meant to do this." Acknowledging the challenges of not seeing oneself represented in the field, she encourages young AAPI veterinarians to persevere. "If they really love veterinary medicine, stick with it. You are not alone and there will always be support for you."

A message for AAPI heritage month

"The AAPI community has been through a lot, but together we are stronger. Although we are not a monolith, we have similar experiences as we advanced in this career; we echo sentiments of imposter syndrome, lack of representation, and cultural barriers," Basit concluded. She emphasizes the value and uniqueness that AAPI professionals bring to the field, encouraging everyone to recognize and celebrate these contributions.

In conclusion, the AAVMP continues to make significant strides in promoting diversity and inclusion within veterinary medicine. Through the dedication of its founders and members, it stands as a testament to the power of representation, support, and community. As we reflect on AAPI Heritage Month, lets continue to celebrate the achievements and contributions of AAPI veterinary professionals, knowing that their presence enriches the field for everyone.


  1. Annual Data Report: 2019-2020. Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. 2020. Accessed May 2024. Available online at:
  2. NAVTA 2022 Demographics Survey Results: Pay and education have increased; Burnout and debt are still issues. National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. February 13, 2023. Available online at:
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