Danger of generalizing LGBT research to veterinarians
When I opened my October 15 issue of JAVMA, I was pleased to see a news story1 addressing health concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterinarians. That is, until I started reading it. As a lesbian veterinarian, I was surprised to read in the first sentence that LGBT veterinarians have “an even greater likelihood of mental health and substance abuse issues (than do other practitioners),” when the rest of the article indicates that the veterinary professional population has not yet been studied. To assume statistics that apply to the general LGBT population automatically carry over to the veterinary profession is dangerous, and labeling LGBT veterinarians as an “at-risk population” may, I believe, lead to further discrimination when seeking employment, as I would think the typical employer would tend to want to avoid any population labeled as likely to have mental health and substance abuse issues.
Clearly there are many factors that could cause a particular population to be at a higher risk for mental health and substance abuse issues, including socioeconomic factors, level of education, degree of family support, and genetic predisposition. Undertreated health issues affect everyone in the profession. We should focus on getting help to those veterinarians who need it, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Keri L. Jones, DVM
South Kona, Hawaii
1. Larkin M. History of discrimination continues to impact LGBT health. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016; 249: 848–849.
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