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AVMA salutes LGBTQ+ veterinarians, colleagues during Pride Month

“While tremendous strides have been made in LGBTQ+ acceptance and inclusion, there is still more progress that needs to be made”

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The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is celebrating Pride Month by sharing stories of LGBTQ+ veterinarians and their colleagues, which can be viewed at AVMA’s Facebook page.

The AVMA and the Pride Veterinary Medical Community (formerly LGVMA) collaborate to support veterinary students and professionals who identify as LGBTQ+ as well as LGBTQ+ clients.

“We believe diversity fosters a climate conducive to success for all members of the veterinary medical community and affirms the value of human diversity for the enrichment of our communities,” said Janet Donlin, DVM, AVMA CEO. “The AVMA believes that diversity and inclusion make us stronger, which is why we stand up in support of our LGBTQ colleagues during the month of June.”

The effort to recognize LGBTQ+ veterinarians, students, and colleagues is an important step in improving their well-being, according to Melinda Merck, DVM, president of the Pride Veterinary Medical Community.

“Being LGBTQ can create additional stressors, such as the inability to be authentic and to feel safe,” said Dr. Merck. “If we can’t be our authentic selves, or feel safe in that authenticity, it creates barriers that hinder our relationships with coworkers and clients, and can ultimately have a negative impact on our animal patients.”

While tremendous strides have been made in LGBTQ+ acceptance and inclusion, there is still more progress that needs to be made, Merck said.

“We have some areas of the country or in the profession where people feel comfortable coming out and being authentic, and others … not so much,” she said. “Is it OK to come out? To be authentic? It’s scary to try to find out if it’s OK. In addition, even with all the progress we’ve made, there’s no guarantee that we’ll maintain those gains. It doesn’t take much to step back, which is why these efforts are so important.”

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The Pride VMC recently launched a new website, PrideVMC.org, which includes more information about the organization, links to resources and further education, and a calendar of upcoming events.

LGBTQ+ events at AVMA Convention 2018

At the AVMA 2018 convention starting July 14 in Denver, Pride VMC hosting a town hall titled “Be Your Authentic Self.” Group discussion will allow LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals to learn from their colleagues how they deal with stigma, barriers, and personal empowerment in practice. Pride VMC also will host its board meeting, as well as its annual meeting and networking reception, on Saturday, July 14, from 5 – 7 p.m., followed by AVMA’s inaugural “Live Life, Love All” event from 7 – 11 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver.

Revealing Hidden Biases: How It Can Impact Our Ability To Provide Successful Veterinary Care,” a panel discussion presented by the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative and Pride Veterinary Medical Community, will help attendees identify personal biases that may hinder communication with a client regarding pet care and compliance, and find ways to increase understanding and foster empathy toward clients and coworkers. This session will be held Saturday, July 14.

On Sunday, July 15, a session titled “Creating Inclusive Classrooms And Clinic Settings For Transgender And Gender Expressive Students, Colleagues And Clients” serves to raise awareness about gender identity and expression as a means of increasing cultural competency in veterinary medicine and provides actionable tips that can be employed in both classroom settings and within veterinary clinics to create inclusive safe spaces for transgender and gender expressive people.

On Monday, July 16, the AVMA will host a session at its annual convention titled “Health and Well-Being Among LGBTQ Veterinary Professionals: What It Is and Why It Is Different.” In this session, attendees will hear about the primary results of the 2016 LGBTQ Veterinary Wellness Survey, consider the intersection of wellness risk factors for LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals and students, and discuss future directions for wellness programming among LGBTQ+ veterinary professionals and students.

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