Letters to the Editor

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Origin of the word “veterinarian”

Dr. Willis W. Armistead was appointed dean of the Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1953, when I was a first-year student in the school. Dean Armistead's insistence on correctly pronouncing the name of our future profession1 in retrospect was a relatively minor point in comparison with his other contributions. He placed great emphasis on professional appearance and conduct, instructing students that they should begin during their school years to act and dress as a professional. That meant no dirty or raggedy jeans, sleeveless shirts, dirty boots or shoes, scraggly unshaven appearance, and so on. He also learned the last name of every student in our class. He was a role model for my 4 years of veterinary school.

Theodore G. Anthony, dvm, mph, col (Retired)

1. Lewis ET. Origin of the word “veterinarian” (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2017; 251: 643.

Diversity concerns

I read Dr. Randolph's letter1 to the editor regarding the lack of diversity in the veterinary profession, and although I agree with her conviction that “our personal commitments, or lack thereof, will determine the legacy of this profession,” there are issues that I feel are worthy of further discussion.

First, after citing statistics showing that > 90% of US veterinary students are Caucasian, Dr. Randolph asserts that “[t]his is a stark reminder that our profession continues down a path of exclusion.” Perhaps I misunderstand, but this statement left me wondering where and how nonwhite individuals are now and will continue to be excluded from the veterinary profession. My understanding is that it would be a federal civil rights violation for veterinary schools to exclude students on the basis of skin color.

Second, it would be helpful to have an explanation of how “acknowledging privilege” would benefit the profession in regard to veterinary school admissions. That any particular racial group may or may not have the benefit of privilege seems, to me, to be irrelevant when choosing the best and brightest candidates for the future of our profession. This needs further clarification and explanation.

Finally, in answer to one of Dr. Randolph's opening questions, no, I don't find it particularly problematic that the veterinary profession has been labeled “the whitest.” Similarly, my answer to her question “Will you commit to mentoring a young person who does not look like you?” is yes, of course; I already do.

Dr. Randolph and I do seem to agree that efforts to increase diversity should focus on young people interested in the veterinary profession. Whatever the reasons minority groups have historically not been represented in the veterinary profession, we should put our efforts into recruiting the best and brightest young people who show interest in veterinary medicine, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or other attributes.

John S. Parker, dvm

1. Randolph MM. Diversity starts with us (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2017; 251: 777.

Editor's note:

The AVMA is, as stated in its policy on diversity and inclusion,1 “committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the profession of veterinary medicine,” and the AVMA website provides a wealth of resources on diversity and inclusion,2 including discussion of the rationale for the Association's commitment. Obviously, this is a complex topic. However, from a purely practical point of view, if our goal is to attract the best and brightest, then the fact that the profession predominantly represents a single racial segment of the population means that we are missing a large number of those best and brightest. And, that would seem to be problematic.

Related to diversity and inclusion, few topics are more fraught than the idea of privilege, particularly white privilege. Although the view that certain groups benefit from unearned societal advantages has been around for quite some time, our current understanding of white privilege is rooted, to a large extent, in a 1989 essay by Peggy McIntosh3 in which she discusses her personal experiences regarding the effects of white privilege in her life. Notably, white privilege is not the same as class privilege, and recognizing that someone has white privilege is not the same as identifying them as racist. White privilege is less about the advantages that white people have than the disadvantages they don't face.4

Kurt J. Matushek, dvm, ms

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