Auburn Vet Med to Host Southeast Regional Diversity Matters Symposium

The Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine will play host to the Southeast Regional Diversity Matters Symposium—a biennial conference featuring topics related to diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine—on August 29, 2020. This year’s conference is sponsored by Zoetis, Inc., and Banfield Pet Hospital and will be held in a virtual format due to state and university safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As host institution, Auburn’s conference planning committee is composed of faculty, staff and students from Auburn Vet Med, along with representatives from other southeastern colleges of veterinary medicine. The conference is open to all veterinary faculty, staff and students, but the focus is on promoting regular dialogue among regional peers. The theme of the 2020 conference is “Building Comprehensive Wellness Programs through a Climate of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” Wellness and life balance are crucial topics in veterinary medicine; therefore, the goal of this conference is to assist attendees in designing and maintaining wellness programs that incorporate key concepts of diversity, inclusion and equity.

The conference format will include multiple sessions organized in three key subject area blocks: Developing Student Advocacy for Wellness, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Building a Climate of Student Health and Emotional Wellness; and Forming Alliances and Deepening Relationships. Each block will cover related topics and feature presentations by veterinary medical professionals from around the nation. Some of the many topics to be covered include ways to challenge students for constructive action, how to recognize signs of student distress and encouraging health and emotional wellness in a COVID-19 environment.

In addition to the numerous work sessions, the conference will also include remarks by three outstanding keynote speakers: Thomas (Thom) Gossom, Jr., ’75, an actor, writer and communications consultant; Dr. Lisa Greenhill, currently Senior Director for Institutional Research and Diversity at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC); and Dr. Christine C. Jenkins, head of the Zoetis’ Medical Affairs, Academic and Professional Affairs, Scientific Information and Outcomes Research Groups.

Gossom, a starting wide receiver for the Auburn football team from 1972-1974, was featured in the HBO special, “Breaking the Huddle,” about the integration of southern college football, and was the first African American athlete to graduate from Auburn. He is an award-winning actor and author, and today he and his wife Joyce are owners of Best Gurl, Inc., a marketing, communications and higher education consulting firm.
Greenhill directs the AAVMC’s study of academic veterinary medicine through collaborative research, analysis and publication efforts. She also manages the DVM: DiVersity Matters Initiative, which promotes increased representation of underrepresented populations in veterinary medicine, inclusive academic environments and the inclusion of diversity related professional competencies in the DVM curriculum.
As a member of the Zoetis U.S. Leadership Team, Dr. Jenkins serves as the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer for U. S. Operations and is responsible for strategic partnerships with the colleges of veterinary medicine and professional associations across the company’s U. S. Operations. She is responsible for the Zoetis Commitment to Veterinarians platform and philanthropic efforts, which include support of the veterinary profession through scholarships, veterinary wellness initiatives, disaster relief and diversity.