Envisioning A More Equitable Future For Veterinary Medicine And Care


February 02, 2023

At the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), one of the principles at the heart of the college’s academic, research and healthcare programs is the understanding that the human-animal bond is universal. Our relationship with animals transcends race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, and the One Health philosophy recognizes and celebrates the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health.  

However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinary medicine is among the least racially and ethnically diverse fields in North America, with nearly 90 per cent of veterinarians identifying as Caucasian or white. And while great strides have been made in advancing gender equality in veterinary practice (according to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 62 per cent of the more than 15,000 veterinarians practicing in Canada identify as female), evidence suggests that there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equity. Research shows that levels of stress, burnout and compassion fatigue are still higher among women than men, and that even among the youngest groups of veterinarians, men hold more owner/partner positions than women.  

Furthermore, Canada does not track detailed statistics on diversity in the veterinary field, leaving a gap in insights related to representation and related impacts for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and other historically underrepresented groups in veterinary education and practice.  

OVC’s Commitment To Equity, Diversity And Inclusion 

In early 2021, OVC embarked on a journey to develop a comprehensive Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy to build a more inclusive and engaged workplace and learning environment for its faculty, staff and students, and to leverage its unique role in higher education to foster diversity and inclusion in the veterinary profession and the broader health sciences community.  

Foundational to this journey is the recognition that removing barriers to accessibility and inclusion—both in veterinary education and healthcare practice—is critical to improving access to care for animals, supporting wellness for veterinary professionals, and providing more well-rounded service to the community.  

OVC engaged HRx Technology to design and administer a self-assessment study among faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners to measure baseline dimensions of equity, diversity and inclusion across the college, and to better understand how these issues impact the experiences of the individuals who participated. 

In early 2022, HRx concluded their work and provided OVC with a comprehensive report that defines the college’s current state and aspirations for EDI including key themes and findings, guiding principles, and recommendations to inform decisions going forward.  

Scope of OVC’s EDI Self-Assessment with HRx:  

  • 41 individual interviews  

  • 14 focus groups  

  • 2 leadership workshops  

This effort engaged:  

  • 626 faculty and staff  
  • 936 students (DVM and graduate)  
  • 4032 alumni  

Building on the findings from the self-assessment, the OVC community is now working to establish a comprehensive 5-year plan with actionable short, medium and long-term goals, beginning with the appointment of a leadership position to direct EDI activities. 

Key Findings From OVC’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Self-Study 

  • 91 per cent of OVC faculty & staff support EDI at OVC  

  • Compared to the Ontario population:  
    The OVC student body is MORE diverse  
    OVC faculty and staff groups are LESS diverse  

  • Racial inequity and mental health were common concerns  

  • The following groups reported facing issues related to inclusion:  

    • International students  

    • Faculty and staff  

    • Individuals with disabilities  

    • Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals  

    • Doctor of Veterinary Science students  

    • Women  

OVC’s plan will build on a range of EDI-related activities that have already been implemented in various areas across the college, including:  

  • Actively promoting opportunities in veterinary medicine among historically underrepresented groups and removing barriers to inclusion throughout the recruitment process (including ensuring information about the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program is promoted at high school career fairs province-wide);  
  • Continuing to review the DVM admissions processes and criteria to enhance accessibility and ensure applicants are evaluated using more holistic and equitable methods to determine their readiness for both the demands of the program and a future career in veterinary medicine;  
  • Supporting equity-seeking in the form of scholarships and bursaries, including: the Black Canadian Graduate Student Scholarship, implemented by the Department of Biomedical Sciences to support the recruitment of outstanding Black students to its graduate program;  
    • the DWAH Diversity Scholarship, established by Dr. Alex Folosea (OVC 2010) in recognition that the veterinary profession is made stronger through greater diversity. This scholarship supports BIPOC students with exceptional leadership in community, workplace, or campus organizations prior to entering the DVM program;  
    • the OVC 2021 Entrance Bursary, established by the OVC DVM class of 2021 (the Sapphire Snow Leopards) to support current BIPOC students who experience financial need as one of the barriers to their veterinary education;  
    • the Rose Bursary, established by Dr. Cynthia Rose (OVC 2012) to support student veterinarians with black heritage in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, and to promote and support diversity in the future of veterinary medicine. In addition to the bursary, recipients of this award are offered an optional mentorship opportunity by Dr. Rose with a focus on small animal practice;  
    • the Scandrett Family Scholarship in Veterinary Medicine, established by the Scandrett family to further diversity within the veterinary profession, and veterinary capacity and food security within the Indigenous community;  
    • the Dr. Edward C. Eddy Veterinary Medicine Bursary, established in 2021 by the endowment created by the estate of E.C. “Ted” Eddy, son of Dr. Edward C. Eddy, DVM (OVC 1941). Ted was a tremendous advocate for marginalized communities and dedicated his time as a public speaker and mentor for causes close to his heart;  
  • Establishing the OVC Diversity Club (now transitioned to the OVC Pride VMA chapter and the OVC Diverse Club) in partnership with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students and allies; 
  • Providing early and ongoing access to well-being resources and EDI-related training for all members of the OVC community, and many more  

Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of The Crest, the research, teaching and health care magazine of the Ontario Veterinary College. 

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