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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Building A Strong, Diverse Profession

March 12th, 2018

With a goal of engaging in difficult dialogues in order to advance a diverse and inclusive veterinary profession, a contingent from the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine participated in the Iverson Bell Regional Summit last month.

“It was an opportunity to discuss issues of inclusivity and diversity with students, faculty and staff from other veterinary programs in the west,” says Dean Sue Tornquist. “The group was small enough to facilitate great discussions, but large enough to learn about best practices, ideas, and concerns that have come up in other veterinary schools.”

The Dean provided scholarship for two students to attend: Genny Cobarrubias and David Smith. They were chosen based on short essays they submitted.

“I went as a representative from the college’s diversity committee,” said Smith, “I also went to listen and learn. I think diversity and inclusion are important, and it was interesting to see what other schools are doing to try to address these issues.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine’s Diversity Committee is charged with developing strategies and actionable items to foster a community of diversity and inclusion.

“While diversity and inclusion have long been important for the CVM, it becomes even more important to take significant steps in this direction as our entering class of 2021 includes 24% students from under-represented minority backgrounds,” says Tornquist.

Smith is also president of the Student Chapter of the Veterinary Medical Association, and as such wants to use that platform to promote diversity issues and programs.

Genny Cobarrubias is interested in diversity issues because she comes from a diverse background. Growing up in Hood River I never knew anybody who was a veterinarian,” she says. “And, as a student there, I was the only [latina]who was interested in science.”

She is currently building the groundwork for a new student club called Voice (Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment). “Iverson Bell was an opportunity to meet Voice members from other universities,” she says, “and learn about what they are doing.”

Both Smith and Cobarrubias are interested in organizing outreach to diverse groups of young people to encourage their interest in the veterinary profession.

“There aren’t many people of color who are veterinarians,” says Cobarrubias. “So I want to be a role model, reaching out to young people, encouraging them and letting them know ‘You can do this’.” She also plans to pursue these goals as a practicing veterinarian in the near future, reaching out through internships and job shadowing opportunities for high school kids.

Micro-aggressions was one of the topics at the summit that both students found particularly pertinent for future veterinarians..

“It’s that off-the-cuff stereotyping that isn’t super offensive, but can have a negative impact,” says Cobarrubias.

“Often, people don’t mean to say things and aren’t even aware they may be hurtful. Sometimes you just include a detail about someone’s identity that is irrelevant to the story being told,” says Smith. “It reminded me to be very conscious of what I am saying as a veterinarian, with both future clients and future employees. The more diverse your practice can be, the stronger your practice will be. That is the future.”

Both Dean Tornquist and Associate Dean Semevolos attended the summit. In addition, Tess Collins, admissions coordinator, and Alex Rowell, wellness program coordinator, gave a presentation on the history of diversity in Oregon, and shared the results of a student survey on diversity issues at CCVM.




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