Inside AAHA: March 2022

AAHA Board Director Will Draper, DVM, discusses efforts to improve diversity in the profession. Also in Inside AAHA, results from some recent member surveys, and Dear AAHA addresses how to deal with angry clients.

View from the Board

Making Strides to Improve Diversity

 

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”—Barack Obama

Diversity, in its most basic form, means building a group that includes folks of all different origins, races, ethnicities, classes, physical capabilities, gender identifications, and sexual orientations. This word, along with inclusivity, is on the mind and tongues of many in today’s world. And as Martha Stewart would say, that is a good thing. Some might say it’s long overdue, but I’m just really, really relieved to find we are on a better path . . . finally.

We are fortunately seeing a small wave of diversity in the veterinary profession in recent years. When I applied to the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, it was the only school to which I applied. Like many other young Black pre-vet students at that time, it was understood that Tuskegee’s program, the only on an historically Black campus or university (HBCU) campus, was my only realistic shot at acceptance. Back then, when you met another Black veterinarian—be it at a conference, on vacation, or at the local supermarket—you were 99.9% sure that they’d also received their DVM from that same storied institution . . . and you were almost always correct.

But things have improved; we can see and feel it. My youngest daughter (whose mom is my classmate, business partner, and wife—Françoise Tyler, DVM), a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill, plans to follow in our footsteps. However, along with Tuskegee, she will also have a plethora of other options—veterinary schools that will genuinely consider including adding her to their student body.

Outside of the classrooms, and unfortunately, specifically in veterinary practices, diversity hasn’t caught up. My wife and I have attended several regional and national veterinary functions where we are the only two Black DVMs in the room—no matter if there are 30 or 300 attendees. You can still visit veterinary practice websites where, when clicking the “Meet Our Vets” tab, there can be a glaring consistency of not just race but also gender. For years, this has been the norm. But it’s getting better. Some of the recent widely publicized discrimination and unrest, combined with a world pandemic, has opened eyes, minds, and hearts. We are coming to realize that we can all do better. I take a great deal of pride in the diversity in our Atlanta-based practice groups, from the veterinarians to the kennel attendants. My recent appointment to the AAHA Board of Directors is also firm evidence of that growth and change.

There is still more to do. We must make it a conscious and deliberate act to invite diversity, inclusivity, and acceptance into our workspaces. Any qualified individual deserves the same opportunity to sit down for an interview. Applicants need to know—from your employment ad and from your lips—that you welcome anyone to the table that can do the job.

The days of sitting in front of a bulletin board with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brochure pinned to it (behind a menu from the local pizza joint) are no longer acceptable. Be direct, honest, and sincere. Then, if they seem a good fit for your team, give them a chance to prove it. It is an “inclusive diversion” that starts at the top, and one that will be noticed and appreciated by your team members, clients, and even colleagues, which can help the trend spread like kudzu.

Will Draper, DVM, is a director on the AAHA board. Draper attended Tuskegee University in Alabama (fourth generation) for both undergraduate and veterinary medical studies. He received his DVM in 1991. He moved to Atlanta in 1992, married Françoise Tyler, DVM, in 1993, and together they founded The Village Vets in Atlanta in 2000. His special veterinary interests include dermatology, internal medicine, and practice management.

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Will Draper, DVM, is a director on the AAHA board. Draper attended Tuskegee University in Alabama (fourth generation) for both undergraduate and veterinary medical studies. He received his DVM in 1991. He moved to Atlanta in 1992, married Françoise Tyler, DVM, in 1993, and together they founded The Village Vets in Atlanta in 2000. His special veterinary interests include dermatology, internal medicine, and practice management.

 

Dear AAHA

Dear AAHA,

Do you have any insight on how to deal with angry clients? COVID has our clients on edge and treating our staff badly. Clients are more stressed and emotional than normal—and most don’t seem to understand the added stress COVID, curbside and short staffing has on our teams.

—Tired in Toledo

Dear Tired in Toledo,

This is a very difficult time for all of us, and there aren’t easy answers. Every practice should have a client-conflict protocol to prepare team members for just these types of scenarios. We recommend looking at the client communication CE offerings in AAHA Learning (aaha.org/learning).

The helpful article “How to handle angry clients without losing your cool” is available by searching the NEWStat archives at aaha.org, and there are great resources in the AAHA Press Store (aaha.org/store), including Exceptional Customer Experience: 80 Tips for Compassionate Care, Clear Communication, and Authentic Client Connections. We wish you luck!

—AAHA’s Member Experience Team

Have a question you’d like AAHA to answer? Email us at [email protected].

Research Recap

In the past 18 months, the AAHA team has evaluated every program, product, and service we provide to find ways to help veterinary practices. We are excited to announce our new and improved Purpose Statement and Core Values that serve as a filter for us to run our ideas through as we decide how to spend our resources in time, money, and people power over the next few years.

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