Do veterinary schools need stronger diversity standards?

AVMA accreditation group seeks public comments by Jan. 22

January 13, 2021 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Art by Tamara Rees

An American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education working group is reviewing how its U.S. accreditation standards address diversity, equity and inclusion of underrepresented minorities in veterinary education, and whether more attention should be devoted to the issue. 

Before submitting its findings, the working group has asked the public to weigh in on the topic. The public has until Jan. 22 to submit comments to the COE, the nation's sole programmatic accreditor of U.S. and Canadian veterinary programs.

The call for introspection comes amid a national reckoning with inequality and systemic racism in America — a reckoning intensified by the death last year of George Floyd, a Black man, while he was in police custody. From corporate America to the sports arena, much of the country has awakened to the inequities experienced by marginalized groups. Veterinary medicine, one of the whitest professions in the United States, is paying renewed attention to diversifying its ranks. 

The profession has been grappling for years with diversity and inclusion. In 2016, the COE appointed a different working group to address ways to incorporate diversity and inclusivity language into its 11 accreditation standards. In March 2017, the COE amended six of the standards, per the working group's suggestions.   

At that time, the COE elected to embed diversity, equity and inclusion language in several accreditation standards rather than add a standard solely devoted to the topic, based on a belief that it should be an integral part of all aspects of veterinary education. Most notably, standard 7 concerning admission processes was amended to read: 

"The college must demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion through its recruitment and admissions processes, as consistent with applicable law. The college's admissions policies must be nondiscriminatory, as consistent with applicable law."

AVMA officials at the time relayed that it was not the COE's intention to require colleges to admit specific numbers of underrepresented minorities. Rather, the mandate is designed to "promote the recruitment and retention of a diverse academic community."

"The council believes that a college that fosters a climate of diversity and inclusion will have a rich learning and social environment that promotes the development of graduates prepared to deliver a broad array of veterinary services to a diverse population," AVMA officials stated.

Now the COE is considering whether the existing language goes far enough. Comments should be emailed and include the subject line "AVMA COE DEI Comments."

If the working group ultimately proposes changes to the COE standards, there will be another public comment period. 

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