Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (Ret.) Center for Behavioral Health Research Knoxville, Tennessee
Millions of families that deserve to have companionship with a pet struggle to access veterinary care primarily because they cannot afford it. Although numerous organizations and programs help by providing wellness and preventive care, there are fewer options available when illness or injury occurs. Advanced care is even further out of reach of many families. Veterinarians take an oath to benefit society, yet many families are underserved. It is essential to ensure all pets across the socioeconomic spectrum have access to veterinary care. Nearly three out of four veterinarians surveyed by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition agreed or strongly agreed that the current for-profit business model is not meeting the needs of all pets. The veterinary profession is the least diverse medical profession. It can be argued that this lack of diversity makes reaching all of society more difficult. Socioeconomics certainly plays a significant role in who receives services or experience health disparities. Minority, women, and young pet owners are disproportionately affected. This societal challenge requires interprofessional collaborations. Dr. Blackwell will share some of his life story as a minority in veterinary medicine, including racism and oppression he witnessed and experienced since the days of growing up in his dad’s veterinary practice. Many years ago, someone asked him why there were not more Black brain surgeons. To him, it is not a mystery, and the reasons also apply to why there are not more Black veterinarians. Proactive steps are necessary to improve diversity in the veterinary profession. A good starting place is an acknowledgment that it is unacceptable not to be more diverse and to make a commitment to improving. Strategies need to include the creation of opportunity, exposure to role models, and financial and other support. AlignCare®, a One Health healthcare system that enables veterinarians to reach more underserved families, will be discussed. Through this structured approach, the costs of care are controlled and spread among multiple stakeholders. Lack of access to veterinary care transcends race, although families of color are disproportionately affected. It is a problem reflecting the mosaic of a diverse population. Through collective determination, the veterinary profession can become more diverse and consequently do a better job of reaching a diverse community of pet owners. Lack of access to veterinary care is the social justice issue that the veterinary profession has an opportunity and obligation to help address.
Learn that there is a growing crisis of lack of veterinary care affecting millions of families.
Understand that the current veterinary medicine business model is failing to reach millions of families, resulting in emotional distress for the family and the veterinarian who wishes to help.
Learn about AlignCare, a One Health healthcare system that will enable underserved families to get veterinary care and veterinarians to serve more of their community.