The club started as what I can only call an intense desire to make a difference in response to the events that unfolded in the USA over the summer of 2020. The Black Lives Matter Movement, was a stark reminder that inequity across race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, are still very much systemically entrenched in our everyday lives. This movement and its brave participants also instigated the courage amongst BIPOC everywhere to readdress these injustices openly and more confidently.
Coinciding with the pandemic, however detrimental, seems to have provided the lull in the everyday grind which allowed for these conversations and realizations to rise to the surface. But these realizations also called for answers and support for those that felt targeted and disenfranchised. In searching for this support, it was initially quite jarring that in 2020, WCVM did not have a diversity, equity and inclusion club.
In fact, in speaking with friends in the veterinary community, across the world, it became more and more apparent that veterinary medicine in particular had a lot of catching up to do with respect to addressing equity.
As a mom of a toddler with a husband that does rotational shift work, I was not eager to take on the daunting task of starting a brand-new club. However, as one of the few students that identify as BIPOC at WCVM, passivity and waiting on someone else to take action, was also not an option.
Thankfully there were many individuals willing to help. Through a friend, I was put in touch with the newly formed Ontario Veterinary College’s DIVERSE club’s Co-president, Emma Stacey. Emma was of immense help in guiding me through the process of building the framework of this club and its constitution. Soon after, fellow mom and classmate, Charlie Swain, agreed to join me in this venture as Co-president of WCVM DIVERSE. Our class president Andrew Crookes also put me in touch with OVO’s club president Jocelyne Chalifour, our SCVMA representative Svetlana Ponsin and classmates Billy McLaughlin, Katelyn McEwen, Catherine Beaupre and Jack Krone, all of whom were likewise moved by current events to start a diversity and inclusion initiative at WCVM. And so it began.
We hope to continue to grow while providing a more equitable path forward for those in our current and future veterinary community.
Asadeh Behnam-Shabahang & Charlie Swain
WCVM DIVERSE Co-Founders & Co-Presidents