Student becomes national advocate for Asians in veterinary profession

Hira Basit

Hira Basit

Third-year UF veterinary medical student Hira Basit has been, well, a little busy this past year. In addition to keeping up with all her veterinary studies, she became inspired to enhance awareness of other Asians in the veterinary medical professions. By creating an association that has provided support and advocacy to members of the Asian community, and telling members’ stories, she has already facilitated meaningful change. In this issue, Basit shares more background and context for her involvement, along with her personal story.

Q: You’ve been in the veterinary trade press news a lot this past year, with articles in dvm360, JAVMA and most recently VIN News Service, relating to your efforts to create more visibility and representation for Asians in the veterinary profession. You co-founded the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals as one way of doing that. Could you share what led up to this and how the group got started?

A: It wasn’t until I co-founded the AAVMP that I saw people who look like me represented in the veterinary field. I grew up in Miami, Florida, where I mainly encountered white and Latinx veterinary professionals. I am a Pakistani-American Muslim woman who was told that being a veterinarian would not make me a “real doctor” by people in the South Asian community and going through my veterinary journey not seeing anyone from my background insidiously made me wonder whether that was true. With my immediate family’s unrelenting support, I applied to veterinary school and was ecstatic when I got into UFCVM.

Although our college’s DVM program is relatively diverse compared to other veterinary schools, it was still an adjustment to go to class and feel so glaringly out of place. I am blessed that I found friends in the program who encourage me to express my culture and educate them on my religion. However, there was still an empty feeling where I craved cultural and religious understanding in the veterinary field. I was inspired by BlackDVMNetwork and LatinxVMA to use that feeling of isolation to create a community of Asian veterinary professionals. I created the Instagram page @AsiansInVetMed and quickly connected to hundreds of people who felt just like I did in their veterinary journey. I joined forces with Stephanie Kuo, a St. George’s University graduate who is almost done with her fourth-year clinical rotations at Cornell, because I knew the page would grow into something big. And boy, did it grow.

We currently have over 1,500 followers on our Instagram, over 700 followers on our Facebook page, and a website,, for our members to access all aspects of the community in one place. Stephanie and I recruited a few amazing veterinary students and veterinarians, including Dr. Evangelia Makrygiannis, Dr. Kelly Hicks and Chloe Pham, who were instrumental in creating the foundation of the AAVMP. It is exhausting establishing a brand new nonprofit organization while in the final years of veterinary school, but I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. I have met so many amazing individuals through the AAVMP and all the veterinary organizations we have collaborated with, including MCVMA, PrideVMC, AVMA, AAVMC, LVMA, BlackDVMNetwork, Pawsibilities Vet Med, and so many more. Platforms for underrepresented veterinary professionals are essential to support and encourage diversity, inclusion and equity in our field. The AAVMP is proud to be part of this movement.

Q: What are some of the group’s strategies for creating greater awareness of Asians making their way in the veterinary profession and some of the ways AAVMP is implementing these strategies?

A: We started off by asking our followers to submit feature stories that we’d post to our page. These stories filled our feed with such incredible, diverse Asian individuals talking about their journeys in vet med and echoing similar feelings of isolation, culture shock and imposter syndrome. We also made it a point to support other affinity organizations focused on DEI on our page in order to help other underrepresented minorities discover those platforms and support our collaborative efforts. We’ve spoke on important topics such as the Model Minority Myth perpetuating anti-blackness in Asian societies during the height of the BLM movement and the rise in hate crimes against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recently created a directory for our website where our members can submit their hospital/practice/office information along with their ethnic/cultural background, languages spoken and other relevant information. This serves the dual purpose of allowing our student members to find mentors who understand their cultural background as well as allowing potential clients find veterinary professionals in their area of the same or similar background and those that could speak their native language.

We keep in mind our mission, vision and core values in all that we do as an organization.

Q: What are the key things the group has managed to accomplish this past year? What has AAVMP achieved that you find to be the most personally rewarding?

A: As discussed above, we have accomplished so much since we started in April 2020 that I can hardly believe it. I think the most personally rewarding accomplishment of the AAVMP has been virtually meeting people with the same culture and religion as me in the veterinary field. It has definitely helped me combat imposter syndrome and make me feel less lonely in this incredibly white profession. Combatting those feelings was the basis for my desire to establish the AAVMP, so anything else we have accomplished and will accomplish in addition to that is a wonderful bonus that I am profoundly proud of.

Q: What’s next on the group’s agenda?

A: We are finalizing our officers, board of directors, and committees as we start the process of applying for nonprofit/501c3 status. As a nonprofit, we can receive donations from private sponsors and companies interested in supporting our organization and use those funds for the betterment of our member experience. We want to create scholarships for underrepresented Asian veterinary professionals to assist them in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, such as with vet school/vet tech school funds or externship funds.

We also want to expand our content to educate our members on cultural competency, particularly the cultural and religious practices Asians participate in. There are 48 countries, 3 territories and 2,300 living languages spoken in Asia, so we have plenty to learn more about.

Our goal is to create student and local chapters of the AAVMP internationally in order to bring our organization’s mission, vision and core values into smaller communities in veterinary schools, cities and states. Hopefully, once COVID-19 is under better control, we will look into establishing an AAVMP conference, but that will definitely be a little way down the line.

We will continue to uphold our mission, vision and core values as we move forward and are always happy to receive submissions for our feature posts.

Q: What is your personal story for how you became attracted to the profession and why you chose to come to UF? What avenue do you hope to pursue professionally after you graduate?

A: My personal story is briefly described above. I have always been a science nerd and I enjoy learning the ins and outs of medicine. As a veterinary professional, I love animals and want to be able to play a role in keeping them healthy and safe. I chose UFCVM in particular because I grew up in Florida — in-state tuition is very nice with a veterinarian’s debt-to-income ratio — and my family is a few hours’ drive away from Gainesville. I am very close to my immediate and extended family, so it was important to me to have them near enough that I could find comfort in visiting them whenever vet school became too much for me to handle alone.

I want to pursue small animal and exotic emergency and critical care medicine after graduation. I am not interested in pursuing a residency at the moment, but I am looking at opportunities with  the Veterinary Emergency Group for the early entry track program. An accelerated form of an internship with all the awesome learning opportunities and mentorship is very appealing to me. In addition, I personally want to be compensated well enough after graduation to start paying off my loans while saving appropriately for retirement. Finally, the company’s quick expansion throughout the U.S. would allow me to potentially stay closer to my parents when I decide to start a family of my own.

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