Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Formed

Dr. Michael Bowie instructs girls from Girls Place

Dr. Michael Bowie helps teach a group of girls from the Gainesville community about veterinary medicine during one of the weekly training sessions offered through the “This is How We Role” program.

In 2014, at the behest of then-dean Jim Lloyd, the UF College of Veterinary Medicine started an informal working group focused on enhancing awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, within the college and the veterinary medical profession. The group offered an opportunity for discussion and engagement, meeting at noon monthly to discuss college programs and issues relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, with all members of the UFCVM community welcomed. For the past several years, the group has been led by Dr. Michael Bowie, a clinical assistant professor and director of community engagement and diversity outreach at the college.

Now, as part of efforts spearheaded by Interim Dean Dana Zimmel to more systematically advance efforts aimed at providing a more inclusive and welcoming environment, the group’s identity has evolved to that of a standing committee, with required representation from college leadership as well as other stakeholder groups.

The committee’s official description contains the following purpose statement:
“The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is a standing committee that shall develop and maintain an effective ongoing educational program designed to foster and ensure a welcoming, respectful, and inclusive environment for all individuals both within and outside of the UF CVM. We must be intentional in creating a strong sense of community and inclusion within and surrounding our college.”

Zimmel and the Faculty Council created the purpose statement, descriptions and composition, with additional feedback from Bowie and the Dean’s Council. The Faculty Council made final revisions prior to the document being approved by the faculty in October as a constitutional amendment.

All members of the committee have now been appointed, and the committee’s first meeting was planned for Feb. 23.

“I expect that we will continue the progress that the DEI working group has made,” said the committee’s chair, Dr. Lisa Farina, a clinical associate professor in the college’s department of comparative, diagnostic and population medicine. “Dr. Bowie has done an amazing job leading this group and carrying out initiatives, and I am excited to work with him in this new role.”

Initiatives Bowie has spearheaded include pipeline programs, creating and promoting efforts to increase inclusion in teaching, research and clinical spaces in the college, as well as assessing the outcomes of those efforts.

Veterinary medicine is the least racially/ethnically diverse of the health professions, and it is one of the least racially/ethnically diverse professions out of all professions in the United States. According to current data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it’s 89.8% white. The profession must change to meet the needs of rapidly changing demographics in the United States, Bowie and Farina said.

While the profession has made strides in increasing racial/ethnic diversity in its veterinary students, the faculty at colleges of veterinary medicine are less diverse they said, adding that while women make up about 80% of graduating veterinarians, they are still underrepresented in leadership positions.

“But DEI isn’t just about race, ethnicity and gender,” Bowie said. “It also includes sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, socioeconomic status, geographic background, and other aspects that make up one’s identity. We need to make sure that all of our staff, students and faculty are able to come to the CVM and feel welcomed and included.”

The college needs to ensure everyone has the same opportunities to achieve goals and are given the tools they need to succeed, he added.

“We need to identify and remove barriers that might prevent some individuals from achieving success, and this committee will continue to further the workgroup’s efforts to create and promote initiatives to achieve these goals in our college,” Bowie said.

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