New club hopes to enhance awareness of diversity, inclusion in profession

By Sarah Carey

 How will it feel? Each person’s resources are recognized and routinely utilized; people feel valued, respected and heard; people are not valued “in spite of their differences” but because their differences are seen to add value. Everyone is fully able to contribute.

A new student club at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine aims to provide a forum and support for those seeking greater acceptance and awareness of diversity and inclusion within the college and the veterinary medical profession as a whole.

The club, known as Full Spectrum Veterinary Alliance, was formed last fall, said Dr. Lisa Farina, who serves as the group’s faculty advisor. Discussion about forming such a group came about following a visit to UF by Dr. Mike Chaddock, a longtime advocate for diversity and inclusion, in the spring of 2013 at the invitation of then-dean Glen Hoffsis.

A small group of students attended Chaddock’s dinner presentation at the time, and talk ensued about forming a student club. The UF veterinary medical students decided not to partner with the national Broad Spectrum Veterinary Alliance and instead formed their own group.

The group has had a few events this past year, including a potluck and a meeting where the dean addressed the group. In April, the Full Spectrum club held a panel discussion. Dr. Mike Chaddock, assistant dean for One Health and Strategic Initiatives at Texas A & M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, returned to Gainesville as a participant, joining several UF residents-in-training as panelists.

“I personally felt like it was a great success,” said club president Rachel Warnes, a third-year student. “A lot of questions were asked about how we can expand diversity and what steps we can personally take to broaden our horizons as well as what the benefits are of having diversity in the workplace.”

Warnes said she felt each panelist gave a unique viewpoint of veterinary medicine and how they interact with their colleagues.

“I really hope to recruit more members in order to create an open, accepting environment for veterinary students of all backgrounds,” she said.

Dr. Jessica “Lee” Talbott, a small animal oncology resident, served as one of the panelists. She said she enjoyed the experience and left the discussion with many more questions and topics for continued conversations than she expected.

“It’s obvious that the meaning of diversity is different for everyone, largely based on individual experiences and opinions,” she said. “However, I found myself lost in the layers of conversation and the strong and solid opinions of my colleagues and veterinary students.  The room was full of inquisitive minds, and the seemingly ‘straightforward’ questions were, without a doubt, anything but that.”

Talbott said she learned a lot about her fellow residents who were also on the panel and their experiences with diversity.

“For me, it was an opportunity to discuss sexual orientation diversity as an understanding that acceptance within any community isn’t based on personal opinions or preferences, but rather on performance and professionalism in the workplace,” she said.

Dr. Michele James, a small animal neurology resident, was also a panelist. She said she felt that the topic of diversity was “very pertinent” as it applies to the workplace but also to a changing clientele in the field of veterinary medicine.

“The students who attended asked very well thought-out questions,” James said. For example, students asked panelists for their personal opinions about importance of diversity in veterinary medicine, what things they themselves as students could do to encourage diversity in the profession, and what the college could do to increase enrollment of minority and underrepresented students.

“I felt that the discussion was very meaningful, particularly when the panelists explained that diversity doesn’t only focus on those of different races, religions and sexual orientation, but also includes people of varying age, socioeconomic status and background, i.e. rural vs. urban,” James said. “The discussion also touched on the value of being able to relate to our clientele and having our profession reflect the clientele that we are serving, not just from an altruistic or ethical standpoint, but from a responsible financial business plan as well.”

Talbot added that she hoped for additional panel discussions where more healthy debate could be generated.

“We won’t break any barriers by being silent about these types of issues,” she said.

Among the group’s goals are educating others about the importance of diversity and recruiting more minorities – particularly from Florida A & M University – to apply to the UF veterinary college, said Warnes.

“We really want to work more closely with FAMU to make our veterinary school more appealing to them,” she said. “We also have tossed around several events for the coming semester, including walking in the gay pride parade in October, a potluck where each person brings a dish reflective of their background, a foreign film night and possibly another panel discussion.”

The college’s dean, Dr. Jim Lloyd, was also present at the panel discussion and reiterated that diversity and inclusion are a key part of the college’s mission as outlined in its strategic plan.

“What we’re striving for is for each person to feel valued, respected and heard,” the dean said. “People should be valued not in spite of their differences, but because their differences are seen to add value, and everyone who is a part of our college in any way should be fully able to contribute.”

Anyone seeking more information about Full Spectrum should contact Warnes at





Share this article with others:
  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Twitter

June 2014

Veterinary Academic Building

Strategic planning update

The college has developed a live, evolving strategic plan to guide its future growth.

Graduate selfie

Class of 2014 graduates tip tassels to left

The Class of 2014 recently celebrated completion of four years of veterinary school.

Students performing exam on horse

Equine program benefits veterinary, undergraduate students

A collaborative program between the UF CVM and IFAS helps students with interests in the equine industry.

...also in this issue



Around the College