Diversity helps improve the workplace. This is something that is spoken as common knowledge and even taught in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine curriculum.
Despite knowing the benefits of diversity, the veterinary medicine profession is 94 percent white (a statistic taken from an email sent out by one of our vet school counselors earlier this week).
The need for more diversity and cultural education to further advance the field of veterinary medicine is what drove me to join organizations like the Council of Diversity and Professionalism (CDP) and Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment (VOICE).
Many of the vet school organizations, as one would expect, are related to animals; however, VOICE works to facilitate an inclusive environment through education and outreach about different cultures, religions, and abilities.
In the past, we have had many presentations and tables about different cultures and religions, but I noticed we had never mentioned the role of people with disabilities in veterinary medicine.
Luckily, I was fortunate enough to find the perfect person to help speak about this topic two years ago. Dr. Brandy Duhon, a clinical instructor of shelter medicine and surgery at Louisiana State University, left a lasting impression on me, not only because she was the only veterinarian I have ever met who had no hands, but also because of her larger than life personality.
Bringing Dr. Duhon to Texas A&M was a huge feat that I could have not accomplished without the help of the rest of the VOICE officer team, but all of that hard work was totally worth it. The meeting was ultimately a success, drawing more than 100 attendees!
So many people after the meeting thanked me for bringing Dr. Duhon to Texas A&M.
Veterinarians are often told that their best diagnostic tools are their eyes and their hands, but that isn’t necessarily true!
Dr. Duhon’s willingness to be persistent and think outside of the box are what I believe to be her best tools as a veterinarian. Since her end result is the same, it doesn’t even matter that she does things different than the textbook.
Dr. Duhon mentioned that her success has been due to the support of her family, classmates, and mentors who were willing to let her experiment with different ways of doing things.
I really hope that this meeting contributes to eliminating any underlying bias and pushes my colleagues to realize that people with disabilities, just like anyone else, have so much potential to do good work and advance the profession.
Furthermore, I hope that the veterinary students with and without disabilities feel encouraged to keep trying to learn new things in the face of adversity, even if they don’t at first succeed.
Dr. Duhon could have easily given up when she lost her hands at a young age because of meningitis, but her positive attitude and love for learning helped her persevere and become the person she is today.
I encourage everyone to apply these messages to their own life and become a voice for all.