Celebrating Black History Month, Inspiring Our Young People

Rena Carlson
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As we celebrate Black History Month in February and recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to veterinary medicine, it’s important that we also focus on the future and our ongoing efforts to diversify the profession.

Take a look at our recent Journey for Teams (JFT) module titled, “Pathway Development in Veterinary Medicine,” available at JourneyForTeams.org. Pathway development is focused on identifying and supporting underrepresented students and providing them with the opportunity to see themselves in their profession of choice, in our case veterinary medicine. This module helps tee up how you can serve as a mentor, an inspiration, and an example to students in your community. It is one of several modules you will find on the JFT website, which have all helped me understand my role and ways I can contribute to ensuring a welcoming and inclusive culture in our profession.

In our continued efforts to reach underrepresented students and introduce them to the fascinating world of veterinary medicine, the AVMA in January was proud to work with F.O.C.U.O.S., a nonprofit organization that empowers underserved individuals. We held a special event that gave middle and high school students from socially and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago an opportunity to tour and explore a local veterinary practice owned by a Black veterinarian. Thank you to Dr. Stefanie Clay-Smith, owner and medical director of Animal Advocate Pet Hospital, for helping make this visit possible! A Q&A session with AVMA leadership and a social gathering concluded this special day, and a great time was had by all!

The AVMA is also excited about our partnership with Central High Magnet Career Academy in Louisville, Kentucky. Dozens of students are participating in a series of events we hold at the school. Our hope is that this ongoing relationship will expand opportunities for underrepresented students interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

We are incredibly impressed with Central High and the school’s large veterinary magnet program, which allows participants to learn about different careers in veterinary medicine and provides opportunities for students to network with veterinary professionals, build relationships, and maintain those connections until they decide to enter a veterinary or veterinary technician program.

One important way we can make an impact on the future is to get engaged on the local level, exposing more students to the work we do, empowering them with knowledge about our profession, and providing avenues for access. Young people are a critical population for us to reach, and they are eager to hear from us. Their level of curiosity, interest, and knowledge may surprise you—and inspire you.

Every flame needs a spark. As veterinarians—and as mentors—we can all help ignite a passion for veterinary medicine in students of all ages. There are opportunities in your community to help young people learn about who we are and how they can be a part of this wonderful profession. Anyone can do it; and I invite everyone to join in the effort.

Rena Carlson, DVM

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