Industry News
Prioritizing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Practice Culture
By Dr. Mithila Noronha

ne of the first things that drew me to my job was the visible diversity in the workplace. I know that not all forms of diversity are obvious, but as an Indian American veterinarian who has always felt slightly out of place in a predominantly white profession, it gave me a sense of comfort.

My clinic is the only veterinary setting I have ever been in where the “minorities” are actually the majority. We have six Spanish-speaking staff members and serve several Spanish-speaking clients on a daily basis. One of my colleagues is another veterinarian of Asian descent. The hospital has also had several minority veterinarians who came before us. While some of this can be attributed to the diversity of the area I live in, a lot of it can be attributed to clinic culture. Not only are people from diverse backgrounds present, but their experiences and skills are valued.

What many veterinary practices fail to realize is that recruiting diverse individuals is just the first step; the goal is to create environments where differences are welcomed and people feel a sense of belonging. In order to achieve this, diversity, equity and inclusion must each be considered separately in setting goals for practice culture.

Vector image of people's hands with hearts on them
Vector image of people's hands with hearts on them
Creating a diverse space starts with recruiting individuals from different backgrounds. In job listings, veterinary workplaces should advertise diversity, equity and inclusion as core values of their practice beyond the standard non-discrimination statements. Hiring managers should actively seek out candidates with unique life experiences and skills, such as speaking multiple languages. Attracting and hiring diverse applicants is essential to creating a veterinary staff that can better serve a variety of pet owners.
Vector of 3 people holding hands. "Equity" written next to image
Vector of 3 people holding hands. "Equity" written next to image
Once hired, veterinary staff should be provided with equal opportunities for training, leadership and other forms of career advancement. Having underrepresented individuals in leadership roles will help combat discrimination and bias in the workplace, as leaders will be better equipped to relate to the challenges faced by minority staff members.
Vector image of circle of people putting hands in
Vector image of circle of people putting hands in
Developing a culture of inclusivity is perhaps the most intangible, yet most important, goal for veterinary practices. Individuals should be encouraged to share their perspectives and speak freely about their experiences without fear of being judged or treated differently. While in certain workplaces this comfort level may develop naturally due to having a community of diverse staff members, other places may have a greater need for diversity and inclusion training. Promoting inclusive workplace culture will help to retain diverse staff members and attract more, creating a more sustainable future for minorities in veterinary medicine.
A diverse, equitable and inclusive veterinary practice has numerous benefits for both employees and clients. For underrepresented veterinary professionals, improved cultural awareness among coworkers creates a safer work environment. In these spaces, diverse individuals can comfortably share unique perspectives and ideas to improve workplace culture and patient care.

Ultimately, diversity is essential to the future of the veterinary profession because the care of animals improves when clients are able to trust their veterinary team. In addition, client relationships are strengthened by having veterinary staff members that understand cultural nuances of pet care, communicate effectively and look like the people they serve.

As a veterinary professional who has often been the only person of color in veterinary clinics, I have experienced firsthand the difference between spaces that prioritize diversity and inclusion and those that don’t. In my current practice, I am able to bring my full self to work each day without feeling an urge to keep parts of my identity quiet. I have numerous opportunities for cultural exchange among my colleagues each day. Best of all, I have been able to connect with clients from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and experience how much they appreciate seeing themselves reflected in the people who care for their pets.

Dr. Mithila Noronha headshot
Dr. Mithila Noronha is a 2022 graduate of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She works as a small animal veterinarian in Maryland. Dr. Noronha is passionate about creating a more positive and inclusive culture in veterinary medicine. She believes that this starts with good mentorship and diverse representation, both of which she aims to provide for future classes of veterinarians.