What is VOICE?
VOICE is a student-run organization that seeks to increase awareness, respect, and sensitivity to differences among all individuals and communities in the field of veterinary medicine. VOICE also aims to celebrate diversity within our profession, to encourage campus environments that embrace diversity and promote the success of all students, and to emphasize the importance of cross-cultural awareness in veterinary medicine in order to meet the needs of our diversifying clientele. Lastly, in order to ensure a more diverse future for veterinary medicine, VOICE chapters provide leadership and mentorship to youth, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, who are interested in careers as veterinarians.
In each of these regards, we feel that there is a gap in the curriculum of American veterinary colleges, and that it is therefore the duty of VOICE to partner with the colleges to fill this gap in the curriculum by offering promotional and financial support for educational, social, and service events that elevate the topics of diversity and inclusion in the discourse of our profession.
We are a unified, student-led voice that contributes to the enhancement of diversity in the profession and to the cultural competency of veterinary students. We plan to work with the AVMA, SAVMA, and AAVMC regarding these issues as they relate to the veterinary profession.
In the spring of 2001, students at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine founded an organization to increase awareness and sensitivity to socio-cultural issues in the field of veterinary medicine. This organization was originally known as Veterinary Students for the Promotion of Socio-cultural Awareness (VSPSA). In 2004 the executive board created a new title for the organization: Veterinary Students as One In Culture and Ethnicity (VOICE), with the following mission statement:
“We are aware that veterinarians and students have different economic, social and cultural backgrounds; therefore, our task is to unite the veterinary community by institutionalizing the University’s core value of multiculturalism. We will accomplish this task via cultural events, forums, lectures and educational campaigns. We believe that acknowledging, understanding, and nurturing of our differences will improve our service to our clientele and enhance the veterinary profession.”
Following the success of VOICE on Cornell’s campus, the executive board decided to expand VOICE nationally. With financial backing from Pfizer Animal Health, VOICE became a national organization at the 2007 Student AVMA, with 10 veterinary schools signing on as original members. Since then, VOICE has grown to include chapters at nearly 20 of the U.S. schools.
In 2017, the national VOICE chapter voted to change its name to ‘Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment’ to reflect the organization’s emerging commitment to both current students and alumni, as well as our recognition that diversity involves not just race and ethnicity, but a whole host of identities including religion, sexuality, gender identity, (dis)ability, and more.
In the future, VOICE hopes to establish a chapter at every veterinary college, to create a diverse national network of mentors in the various fields of veterinary medicine, and to establish a scholarship fund that will reward veterinary students for showing outstanding leadership and commitment in the area of diversity. With the participation of our student members, support from our colleges and the commitment to making an impact on the profession, VOICE is excited for what is to come for us in the future!
A big thank you to our sponsors at Zoetis!
Zoetis (formally Pfizer Animal Health) is and has been a gracious sponsor to the national VOICE chapter, as well as to each school’s individual VOICE chapters. We thank them for providing us with the opportunity to spread diversity awareness in our profession through funding for outreach events.