VOICE E-Board Diversity Editorial & Interview: Fearon, Nickleberry, Lawrence, and Willis

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Carais Lawrence, Jasmyn Fearon, Antonia Nickleberry, and MarcAnthony Calhoun (from left to right)

Updated: September 10, 2020

What inspired you to join VOICE?

VOICE is a student- run organization that aims to celebrate diversity and improve awareness among individuals and the student body of US and Caribbean veterinary schools. I decided to join the E-Board of SGU’s chapter to help promote cross cultural sensitivity across campus. Our goal is to ultimately help us to become better veterinarians to our diverse clientele and support a more diverse future in the field. 

Throughout history, veterinary medicine has failed to meet the standard of diversity in both gender and race. Although many things have changed since then, there is always room for improvement. It is sometimes hard to see the world through the eyes of others, especially when we aren’t from diverse areas ourselves. Therefore, I wanted to bring new ideas and discussions to the table for my classmates to be a part of. The best way for us as a student body to come together is listen. We have a unique opportunity in Grenada to be leaders and mentors to the local youth and show them they can wear white coats too. I believe VOICE gives us the chance to understand each other in ways we have not been able to before, especially in today’s current climate. 

Where are we today on diversity in society as opposed to five or ten years ago?

From my lens of the world, I would say diversity in American society hasn’t changed much from 2010. Granted, I haven’t been in every classroom, board room or mall across America. However, from my daily outings and interactions with people I can’t say there has been blatant growth or progress in diversity since 2010 or 2015. 

But let’s not take my word for it. An article published on July 10th from the Philadelphia Inquirer stated, “The United States is becoming more diverse, as the white share of the population declines and Hispanic, Asian & African American populations grow”. The article continued on to highlight that such changes were happening quite quickly, but only in certain US cities.

Ten years ago, the United States Census Bureau reported that 72% of the population was white, 16.3% were Latino, 13% black, 5.6% Asian, 2.9% of the population identified as two or more races, and 0.2% pacific islander. As compared to the census demographics published in 2019, we see 59.7% of the population is now white, 18% Latino, 12.1% back, 7.5% Asian, and 2.9% of the population belongs to the category of two or more races.Within the last 10 years while we do see slight shifts in numbers, White Americans remain the majority, while Latino’s/Hispanics, Blacks and Asians remain the minority groups.

But numbers only tell us so much. Diversity needs to be seen where it matters – in schools, hospitals, TV, workplaces. It really is up to individuals to seek out diverse environments or implement them in institutions. Promoting and maintaining diversity to highlight varying cultures and backgrounds is always of importance. Presence of diversity will inevitably lead to representation. It is critical for minorities to be seen, heard and also to be in positions of power.  Let this be the case for the next decade, to continue towards a more diverse and united America.

In addition to the lack of diversity within the profession of veterinary medicine, there isn’t enough diversity among the clientele coming in for veterinary services — also, many students studying to become a veterinarian don’t come from a place of diversity themselves. Do you see those as being impediments to creating a more diverse body of health care professionals?

The lack of diversity in the profession of veterinary medicine, its clientele, as well as amongst the students studying veterinary medicine are definitely impediments to creating a more diverse body of health care professionals. One of VOICE’s main goals is provide leadership and mentorship to youth of underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in a career in this profession. Starting with the youth will allow an increase of representation in the coming generations, whom we desire to continue this leadership to the following generation. By making an impact on the next generation of veterinary students of color, we hope to create a domino effect by impacting the diversity of veterinary professionals, while also increasing the diversity of the clientele. 

Do you think there are ways for students, veterinarians, public health providers, and other health care professionals to come together and work on these issues going forward?

The diversity and inclusion issues that many individuals face daily in the work place can be overcome. It will take a lot of self-reflection for many people, and sometimes that comes with a harsh recognition of engrained prejudices and stereotypes. It's easy for most to ignore problems regarding diversity and/or inclusion if it doesn't pertain to them. If we all just took a moment to listen, really listen to those around us, we could start to chip away at those prejudices and stereotypes. It's important that we listen to understand rather than listening to react. If each student, professor, veterinarian, or other health care professional took the time to truly understand their peer, their neighbor, their employer or employee, the world would be a happier place. It's important that we all come together to celebrate each other's differences rather than shame them. Laws and policies can be implemented to discourage discrimination, but the real change is only going to come from the individual. Racism exists, sexism exists, homophobia exists, gender stereotypes exists. Those things can only change if we take the time to evaluate ourselves. It starts with us. Listen to your neighbor, your friend, your professor. Everyone has their own story worth sharing.

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