Growth of a Movement

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, BlackDVM Network, an online community created to empower Black veterinary professionals, has continued to grow and thrive.

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Voices from the BlackDVM Network

by Tierra Price, DVM

The pandemic has posed challenges for everyone in the veterinary profession. Busier schedules, increased screen time, and mask fatigue seem to plague all of us—working professionals and students alike. BlackDVM Network, an online community for the empowerment of Black veterinary professionals, received an influx of members and supporters throughout this time and has grown exponentially. From our modest start as an Instagram page, we have found a thriving online community to support us through old and new challenges.

Throughout this past year, we’ve continued to work toward our vision of elevating Black veterinary professionals through events, opportunities, and education. Our directory of Black veterinarians and technicians continues to help pet owners find veterinary care near them, and our job board connects members with new opportunities in veterinary medicine. Our community has grown to over 200 members in just one short year. But most importantly, we have been able to help and provide opportunities to our members in various ways:

  • Monthly newsletter spotlights
  • Sponsorship to the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference
  • Pop-up visits around the country
  • Facilitating conference speaking opportunities
  • Monthly educational events around financial literacy, entrepreneurship, professional development, and medicine

Our most notable event, The First but Not the Last, was a collaboration with the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association. In this presentation, we were able to showcase the first Black veterinary graduates from each veterinary college that elected to participate. As an online event, we were impressed by the more than 200 people that attended. These pioneers, including Lila Miller, DVM, who was among the first Black graduates from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, were gracious enough to share their experiences with us, including the challenges of being the “first” in many of their endeavors.

At BlackDVM Network, we believe that everyone in vet med deserves the opportunity to be successful. We work hard to expose our members to the rest of the world in the hopes that they will inspire the next generation to pursue their dreams. We also believe wholeheartedly in the saying “it takes a village,” knowing that having a community to lean on can make all the difference in our physical, mental, and emotional health.

We are extremely humbled by the outpouring of support for our community from this last year. Our members continue to solve tough problems through innovation and authenticity. What are some things we’re passionate about? Read a couple excerpts from our members on what they see as big problems in vet med.

The Value of Representation in Leadership

Kaylyn Stanton, DVM

F2-Kaylyn_Stanton_pic.jpgThe majority of Americans can see themselves represented in almost every capacity in the media. Oftentimes, this includes positions of leadership such as doctors, lawyers, presidents, and CEOs. As a woman of color, I grew up not seeing myself represented similarly to my peers.

We are not commonly taught about powerful or respected Black women in the American educational system. It was not until after college that I learned about the many women and minorities who contributed substantially to science but were not given credit for their work. Although I am blessed to have two extraordinary women in my life that have shown me how to be a compassionate woman and an empowered professional, I did not have women of color in my field to look up to.

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At BlackDVM Network, we believe that everyone in vet med deserves the opportunity to be successful.

During my clinical year, it was important to me that I spent at least one of my externships with a Black female veterinarian. The experience was unique and encouraging for me. The veterinarian was not only treated with reverence directly, but even with her absence from the room, the regard for her remained the same. I vividly remember the Black head technician leading a staff meeting where the entire staff was engaged and respectful. I hold this experience as the first time I witnessed Black professionals leading and managing a space with the same ease that the media had taught me was only reserved for White men.

The veterinary profession has shifted from a primarily male-dominated field to a female-dominated field. However, as is the experience of many female medical professionals, I find that if I am out of the office in uniform, people who inquire about my work scrubs generally ask if I am a nurse. Although I believe human and animal nurses are miracle workers and deserve much appreciation, I am astounded that the public’s perception of women in medicine, especially women of color, remains rooted in support roles.

It is imperative that the veterinary profession remembers to be mindful and intentional about the inclusion of minorities in its plans for the future. Young Black and Brown people must be able to see themselves in medicine and roles of leadership with the understanding that their dreams are achievable. I will work to support the female and minority veterinarians that follow my generation as they enter this evolving professional atmosphere.

Kaylyn Stanton, DVM, graduated from Ross University in 2021 and is currently working in Pickerington, Ohio. She has a passion for community outreach as well as diversity and inclusion.

First-Year Veterinary Student

Natasha Welch

F2-Natasha_Welch_pic.jpgVeterinary professionals are currently facing some of the toughest battles in any profession, both seen and unseen. From extreme burnout to high suicide rates to financial burdens due to low salaries, we experience it all. As a first-year veterinary student, one thing that I have noticed among my colleagues is that we are already experiencing some of these battles before even entering the profession. It poses the question: are veterinary colleges doing enough to ensure their future professionals are not exhausted before actually entering the profession?

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It is imperative that the veterinary profession remembers to be mindful and intentional about the inclusion of minorities in its plans for the future.

I believe the conversation around mental health and academia needs to be brought to the table, especially for veterinary students. Veterinary school should be the time when we learn our profession, network with our future colleagues, and learn mental health practices that will sustain not only our future in this profession but also, and most importantly, our lives. This change starts with creating a process in which students will be able to see their feedback and improvements come into fruition as students and not alumni. This change starts with administration providing a listening ear that is ready to initiate change and not perpetuate institutional complacency. This change starts with putting sustainable procedures in place for students experiencing life’s adversities to not have to choose between struggling through their curriculum and falling behind.

If there is one piece of advice I could provide to all veterinary institutions: listen to your students. We don’t want to make veterinary school easier, but we do want to make it realistic, and we don’t feel like that is asking for too much.

Natasha Welch is a first-year veterinary student at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the president of her class (2025).

A Word from Tierra Price, DVM

A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to my people in veterinary medicine. That commitment came from heartache, rejection, discrimination, and knowing I was entering a profession that was not designed for me. But that doesn’t need to be the case for those that come after me. BlackDVM Network was designed to create a better experience for Black veterinary professionals.

I am completely humbled by the opportunity to lead this community of brilliant and inspirational people. Each and every day I get the chance to brainstorm ideas to continue to elevate a group of people that have been overlooked in this profession for years. Their tenacity, grit, and love for the people and animals they help every day motivate me to continue on my journey as a veterinarian and to continue to build something great for them. They deserve this and so much more. 

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Tierra Price, DVM, is CEO of BlackDVM Network. Find out more at blackdvmnetwork.com.

 

Photo credits: ASphotowed/iStock via Getty Images; Courtney Hale/E+ via Getty Images; Fly View Productions/iStock via Getty Images

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