Diversity is complex. Definitions of the word vary, and diversity incorporates factors well beyond the customary characteristics of ethnicity and race.
These were three of the take-home messages obtained from a 26-question climate survey sent in July 2011 to faculty, staff, and administrators at U.S. veterinary colleges and designed to elicit information on attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and experiences related to diversity.
The survey also found that the gender shift going on in the profession is a concern for both genders. Further, tensions were revealed with regard to the perceived need for diversity in general versus the necessity of having formal diversity initiatives in the workplace.
The results and insights were discussed during the 19th Iverson Bell Symposium March 8–9 in Alexandria, Va., as part of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Annual Conference.
The climate survey was developed by Drs. Phillip D. Nelson and Suzie Kovacs, both of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine. It was conducted concurrently with a survey by the AAVMC that assessed the comfort levels of veterinary students from minority groups, including racial and ethnic minorities; those with impairments or disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
The faculty and staff climate survey showed that 20 percent of respondents said diversity is important but shouldn't be included in workplace policies; however, most (70 percent) said it is important and should be included in workplace policies, while 8 percent disagreed on both counts.
When asked how often they heard racist remarks in the workplace, around 10 percent said occasionally or frequently. Unsurprisingly, minorities in all categories (17 percent of all respondents) were more likely to report hearing racist remarks. The same held true for those who identified as nonheterosexual regarding homophobic remarks. Notably, males more than females had a greater likelihood to hear sexist remarks from students and staff.
“The definition of sexist became an issue, but also whether females felt comfortable to make sexist remarks to males and males' acceptance of sexist remarks,” Dr. Nelson said.
Almost 32 percent of respondents said they were negatively discriminated against because of their gender; of this group, 86 percent were female. Gender was given as the biggest reason for discrimination, followed by level of education, job ranking, marital status, and child status.
By April 1, all institutions were to receive their individual data. Drs. Kovacs and Nelson said they will continue their analysis, compare their results with results of the AAVMC student climate survey, publish aggregate data, and continue to monitor climate.
Letting the numbers tell the story
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges is aiming to collect—and better publicize—more data about veterinary school applicants and students.
Dr. Andrew Maccabe, AAVMC executive director, said the association is in the process of hiring a data analyst as well as increasing the amount of data it collects on enrollment, tuition, and student demographics. This information will be posted on the association's website.
So far, the AAVMC has made available on its website for the first time a tuition map that shows estimated cost of attendance and number of seats available at each member institution, U.S. and foreign. In addition, the association included 10 years' worth of data relevant to enrollment, diversity, gender, and tuition in its 2012–2013 annual data report—another first for the organization. The information can be found at www.aavmc.org/About-AAVMC/Public-Data.aspx.
Furthermore, the AAVMC conducted an inaugural survey of its 20 international members and affiliate members, i.e., institutions not accredited by the AVMA Council on Education, early in 2013. This was done to project the number of American citizens completing professional veterinary education programs outside the U.S. and Canada through 2015. What the AAVMC found was 538 U.S. citizens graduated from these foreign veterinary colleges in 2012. These institutions project just over 600 American graduates in 2013, 667 in 2014, and 735 in 2015. The survey results can be viewed at www.aavmc.org/Public-Data/Survey-of-Projected-American-Graduates-from-Outside-of-the-US.aspx.
And finally, a few months ago, the association asked U.S. veterinary colleges to gauge the employment status of their 2011 and 2012 graduates. As of Feb. 25, 2013, 23 of the 28 had participated in the study. For the 2011 graduates, 1,824 of 2,603 (70.1 percent) were represented, and for the 2012 graduates, 1,802 of 2,687 (67.1 percent) were represented. Results indicated that 98.4 percent of the 2011 graduates and 97.7 percent of the 2012 graduates were employed. The AAVMC study did not delve into whether the positions were full-time or part-time, the level of benefits received, or how many of the positions were jobs versus internships or residencies.
Going forward, the AAVMC is now considering a proposal that would include its international and affiliate (non-COE-accredited) members in certain components of the Comparative Data Report, an internal report produced for U.S. and Canadian association members. Other potential new data sets could include resident versus nonresident students, recent graduate employment, cases treated in veterinary teaching hospital facilities and other facilities used for student teaching, and diagnostic laboratory data.
A final proposal will be developed by the data committee. Then, the deans and AAVMC committee chairs will be invited to evaluate the proposal in comparison with the existing CDR. Changes are anticipated to be finalized by June. The data committee hopes to make a formal recommendation to the AAVMC board of directors ahead of the group's meeting in July.
The Veterinary Medical College Application Service, too, will soon see some improvements to its electronic interface as well as analysis of its data, which, Dr. Maccabe said, will be important for understanding the changing demographics of applicants.
SAVMA supports competencies study
About 1,300 students from 45 veterinary colleges attended the 44th annual Student AVMA Educational Symposium, March 21–23 at Louisiana State University.
The SAVMA House of Delegates also met during the symposium and heard from speakers who discussed decisions recent graduates face and what's being done to help them.
Tomasina Lucia and Hillary Carroll, third-year veterinary students who are part of the Washington State University Surgery Skills Research Group, addressed student delegates about a survey they recently sent out that gauges competence expectations.
Lucia told JAVMA News that the idea came about last year after they heard practitioners say at conferences that veterinary graduates now are substantially less practice-ready than they were 10 or even 15 years ago.
The two student researchers wanted to look more at what the specific skills are that students should learn in veterinary school to make them hireable upon graduation.
They received approval from the AVMA Executive Board this past March to access mailing addresses for 2,500 randomly chosen general practitioners as well as 500 graduates from the classes of 2011 and 2012.
Lucia and Carroll asked and received permission from the SAVMA HOD to forward the survey to chapter members and to promote the project to ensure a high response rate. They were also authorized to forward the survey to residents.
The research group sent the electronic survey in April to students at all U.S. and Caribbean veterinary colleges; surveys for practitioners and recent graduates will be sent later this year. Participants will be asked to consider a list of eight surgical procedures, such as canine spay or neuter and equine laceration repair, and then determine the time needed for completion of each procedure by a recent graduate and the expected independence level on a scale ranging from “shouldn't be able to perform unsupervised” to “should perform unsupervised and be able to handle common complications.”
Eight other skills, such as hand ties or cystocentesis, are included to gauge whether they are of value to employers or whether schools need to teach them anymore. Demographic questions will be asked, too.
The students will work with Dr. John Gay, associate professor of epidemiology at WSU, on the data analysis. Their goal is to have the results published in JAVMA or another veterinary journal within two years.
Also during the SAVMA HOD session, two professors were presented awards.
Dr. David Cross (MO ′00), an assistant teaching professor in the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine's Biomedical Sciences Department, received the Teaching Excellence Award. Dr. Cross teaches anatomy to first-year students.
The Community Outreach Excellence Award went to Dr. Kimberly Stewart (ROS ′06), who is assistant professor of Special Species and Clinical Sciences at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Stewart founded and directs the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network at Ross, which is a member of the St. Kitts Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network.
Newman wins seat on AVMA Executive Board
Dr. Michael E. Newman of Decatur, Ala., has won the race for the AVMA Executive Board District III seat.
Throughout March, AVMA members in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee cast ballots for a successor to Dr. Joseph Kinnarney, whose term as District III representative ends this year.
On April 2, the AVMA announced Dr. Newman had received more votes than challenger Dr. Walter C. Robinson of Greenville, S.C., and was declared winner of the election. Dr. Newman will officially be seated on the Executive Board in July to serve a six-year term.
Dr. Newman received his DVM degree from Auburn University in 1980. Six years later, he established a private surgical referral practice in Birmingham—the first in Alabama and one of five in the Southeast at that time. The practice was eventually relocated to Decatur, Ala., and it currently serves some 250 veterinarians in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.
In addition to holding leadership positions with the Southeastern Veterinary Surgeons Conference and Alabama Academy of Veterinary Practitioners, Dr. Newman was elected president of the Alabama VMA in 2008 and recently completed a six-year-term on the AVMA Council on Research. He currently sits on the board of Jefferson State Community College's Veterinary Technology Program in Birmingham.
Dr. Newman believes the AVMA and other stakeholders should foster the profession's expansion into nontraditional veterinary career fields, most notably, biomedical research.
He sees the coming years as transformative in societal expectations of the veterinary profession. “Expansion of duties into biomedical research, international veterinary service, welfare and shelter issues, government and military careers, and political involvement are reasonable efforts. Such efforts are particularly timely because the number of students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is falling across the board except in veterinary medicine,” he said.
“Maintaining and expanding jobs and job value are the answer to student debt,” Dr. Newman continued. “Reducing or minimizing academic requirements ignores the real-world needs for well-educated people to solve real-world problems present today, and that will certainly increase as the world's human population strains food production and further challenges the environment.”
Dr. Newman is married to former AVMA vice president Dr. Jan K. Strother.
A veterinary conversation about animal welfare
An intraprofessional summit on animal welfare titled “Can You Hear Me Now? The Conversation” is set for Nov. 14–15 at the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont, Ill. This AVMA event, featuring 11 continuing education credit hours of lectures and roundtable discussions, will be limited to 150 AVMA or SAVMA members, chosen to provide broad representation. A working group selected from among the participants will meet Nov. 16 and use discussions from The Conversation to develop a strategy for ongoing dialogue within the profession.
Multifaceted hospital under construction at Tuskegee
Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health held a groundbreaking ceremony March 20 for its upgraded veterinary medical teaching hospital.
Construction of the $41.5 million facility is slated to begin this summer. Funding will come from individual and corporate donors through the university's capital campaign.
The two buildings that currently house the small and large animal departments total approximately 85,000 square feet. They are more than 40 years old and would be costly to repair, according to college officials.
The new teaching hospital will be approximately 120,000 square feet and house high-level clinical services for small and large animals as well as accommodate diagnostic services in the areas of pathology, microbiology, parasitology, virology, and immunology. Other new features include a dog park, covered equine lameness arena, equine neonatal intensive care unit, 150-seat auditorium, and 108-seat electronically enhanced classroom.
Dr. Tsegaye Habtemariam, dean of the college, said in a press release, “For the first time in almost four decades, the veterinary medical teaching hospital will be upgraded to a modern facility that will now help us reach our goal of establishing a pre-eminent place of interdisciplinary teaching and learning as well as high-level clinical services with a focus on translational research and discovery attuned to exploit the latest in molecular biology, computational modeling, food safety, zoonoses, and public health.”
Construction of the new veterinary teaching hospital will be done in four phases, with completion expected in 2015.
Homeless cats the focus of first Research Day
This fall, the National Council on Pet Population and the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators will host Research Day, a scientific symposium on improving the lives of millions of homeless cats in North America.
The event, “CATS, the Ins and Outs: Improving their Future through Research,” is Nov. 9 and being held in conjunction with the SAWA Annual Conference in Tempe, Ariz.
“Our goals are to bring together both researchers and animal welfare and control professionals, to offer a safe place for open dialogue, to translate the analyzed data outcomes so that they can be used to improve or create shelter programs, and to offer effective alternatives to continue on the path to save more lives,” said Pamela Burns, chair of the NCPP board of directors.
The NCPP had been the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy until 2010, when it was reorganized and made a subsidiary of the SAWA. Leaders of the NCPP and SAWA recognized that both organizations would benefit from their new relationship, according to SAWA President and CEO Maurine Dyer Stevens.
The mission of the NCPP is to facilitate the collection, evaluation, and communication of reliable information to promote positive human-animal interactions and reduce the number of homeless cats and dogs.
The reasons cats and dogs are relinquished to animal shelters or euthanized are complex, and a small body of research has identified reasons for each, but Burns says there are important data gaps, especially regarding interventions that work and need to be duplicated nationally.
The NCPP is taking an evidence-based approach to finding solutions to some of the most pressing problems concerning homeless pets, starting with the first Research Day. Intended to be an annual event, the symposium is designed to educate professionals and stakeholders working with homeless cats and dogs.
“Much useful information exists in the peer-reviewed literature, but those who can use it best to solve problems do not have the access or time to retrieve and use this information,” said Dr. John New Jr., a member of the NCPP board.
“At least one role the NCPP is trying to play is to act as a translator between science and the animal welfare and control community.”
Learn more about Research Day by visiting the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators website, www.sawa.affiniscape.com.
Phi Zeta honors research
Phi Zeta, the international honor society of veterinary medicine, recently presented two awards for winning research manuscripts.
Each award consists of an engraved plaque and a check in the amount of $1,000. Phi Zeta has chapters at the 28 U.S. veterinary colleges and at St. George's University in Grenada, West Indies.
Dr. Josephine S. Gnanandarajah, King of Prussia, Pa., won the 2013 Phi Zeta Research Award in the Basic Sciences category. The Kappa chapter at Minnesota submitted her winning manuscript, “Comparative faecal microbiota of dogs with and without calcium oxalate stones” (J Appl Microbiol 2012;113:745–756).
Dr. Gnanandarajah earned her BVSc degree from the University of Peradeniya Veterinary School in Sri Lanka in 2003. As a research assistant in Dr. Michael P. Murtaugh's laboratory at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, she studied the serum proteomic profile of pigs infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus to elucidate novel host response molecules. Her doctoral research was on the role of gut microbiota in the incidence of oxalate urinary stones in dogs.
Dr. Kathleen Ivester (MO ′02), West Lafayette, Ind., was presented with the 2013 Phi Zeta Research Award in the Clinical Sciences category. The Omicron chapter at Purdue submitted her winning manuscript, “Variability in particulate concentrations in a horse training barn over time” (Equine Vet J Suppl 2012; 51–56).
Dr. Ivester completed a large animal surgery residency at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006 and a year later became board-certified in large animal surgery by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. She is pursuing her doctorate at Purdue under Dr. Laurent L. Couetil.
AAVMC recognizes four
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges honored the 2013 recipients of several awards March 6–10 at its Annual Conference in Alexandria, Va.
Dr. James R. Coffman (KSU ′62), dean of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine from 1984–1987 and then university provost until 2004, was chosen to deliver the Recognition Lecture. He spoke about the convergence of influences shaping academic veterinary medicine.
Dr. Coffman retired in 2009 from KSU, which established the James R. Coffman Leadership Institute in his honor.
Dr. Will Hueston (OSU ′80) received the Senator John Melcher DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award. He holds a joint professorship at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Public Health. In 2001, he created the university's Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, which he led for seven years before being named executive director of the UMN Global Initiative for Food Systems Leadership. He is also director and principal investigator of the UMN Food Policy Research Center, and director of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Collaborating Center for Veterinary Services Capacity Building.
Dr. James G. Fox (COL ′68) was awarded the Excellence in Research Award. He directs the Division of Comparative Medicine in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also an adjunct professor at the veterinary schools at Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Fox has been studying infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract for 35 years and is considered an international authority on the epidemiology and pathogenesis of enterohepatic Helicobacter species in humans and animals.
Dr. Ronnie G. Elmore (IL ′72) was honored with the 2013 Iverson Bell Recognition Award for his contributions to advancing inclusion and diversity in academic veterinary medicine. Dr. Elmore created an elective course at KSU, “Practicing Veterinary Medicine in a Multicultural Society,” and many credit him with raising awareness of the need to address a lack of diversity in the veterinary profession.
He has served as the associate dean for admissions and diversity programs at KSU's veterinary college for more than 20 years.