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 for an Inclusive Community for Empowerment’ to reflect the organization’s emerging commitment to both current students and alumni, as well as our recognition that the diversity involve not just race and ethnicity, but a whole host of identities including religion, sexuality, gender, disabilities, 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!