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Saturday, July 19, 2014

WVLDI Marks its First Anniversary with Programs at the AVMA Convention in Denver

Sometimes change happens quickly. Occasionally, important things happen very quickly. 

And that’s the case with WVLDI—the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative—often simply called “Wivaldi” (like the classical composer, Vivaldi, but with a “W”). 

Here’s the story.

At last year’s AVMA meeting in Chicago, Dr. Karen Bradley stood for re-election for the position of chair of the House Advisory Council (HAC) of the AMVA’s House of Delegates (HOD).  When the voting was completed, not only was she replaced by a man as chair, but male HOD delegates were selected to fill the three open seats on the seven-person HAC.  As I wrote last year on this site, “Five Days in July”,

The stunning outcome reverberated across the floor and spilled out into the halls as the seven-member House Advisory Committee returned to being all male, having had only two women members in its history.[i]

Many people, men as well as women, were disappointed. AVMA president, Dr. Douglas Aspros shared an observation that would prove prescient. “A historic convention”, he said, referring to the fact that it was the Association’s sesquicentennial, “but bad outcomes for the HOD and great grist for the mill as we advocate for change.”[ii]

Shortly after the meeting ended, Karen Bradley sat at lunch. Composed, self-assured, and even smiling at times, she conferred with colleagues, considering how women could improve their leadership platform in an association where everyone seemed to acknowledge the desirability to have more women engaged, but no one seemed to know how it could be accomplished.

The interest in developing a group to support women’s leadership grew during the day. Dr. Stacy Pritt, who would become Vice President of the future WVLDI, described the momentum as “palpable, with people rapidly signing up to join a Facebook initiative, and plans for a web site and logo were being solidified.”  Under her leadership, those plans came to fruition within just a few short weeks after the Convention.[iii]

Dr. Karen Bradley, President WVLDI
(Photo provided by Dr. Bradley, 2013)

Less than two months later (September 11), Dr. Bradley hosted a conference call that included six women and two men. Three, including herself, are members of the HOD, and two were past presidents of the AVMA. There was one dean, and one dean emeritus. There was also a faculty member from a veterinary college, and a representative from a women’s foundation in Massachusetts.  These nine agreed to become the founding directors of WVLDI, with Dr. Bradley agreeing to serve as the inaugural president.[iv]

Almost immediately, WVLDI established Facebook and Linked In pages that energized grass roots discussions among its members. Lectures and seminars were presented at the North American Veterinary Conference in January, and the Western Veterinary Conference a month later. A presentation given at the Denver student symposium in mid-March ignited student interest that had been kindled at a course in Women’s Leadership held at Cornell two weeks earlier.[v]  Student chapters of WVLDI were quickly established at three colleges,[vi] and a news article on that topic appeared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.[vii]

Several aspiring female leaders have benefited already from the WLVDI’s mentorship and sponsorship.  They are participating in AVMA-sponsored leadership development programs and serve on AVMA committees.

In February, financial support and sponsorship was received by Ceva. In announcing her support for WVLDI, Dr. Karen Padgett, Ceva’s chief operations officer, companion animal (US), said, “We recognize how important it is to support the advancement of women to leadership, policy and decision-making positions within all areas of professional veterinary activity.”[viii] 

The AVMA’s support for the initiative is strong, and also includes financial commitment, as justified in a March 18th press release,
The WVLDI’s commitment to diversity and achieving leadership excellence in every sector of veterinary medicine is a natural fit with the AVMA’s strategic goal of enhancing participation and engagement of our membership through the creation of a culture of inclusion, transparency and community. [ix]

 From July 25th – 28th, WVLDI will be active at the AVMA Convention

Friday, July 25th, 1:00 – 4:50 pm
Colorado Convention Center, Room 702
Workshop: Develop Practical Skills for Becoming Confident and Effective Leaders[x]

Sunday, July 27th, 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Colorado Convention Center, Room 207
The Initiative to Develop Women Leaders in Veterinary Medicine (Hot Topics Session)

Monday, July 28th, 8:00 – 11:50 am
Colorado Convention Center
Women’s Leadership Development Symposium
8:00 - 8:50       Women’s Leadership: Minding the Gap and Sharing Solutions
9:00 – 9:50      Women of Vetlandia: Secrets to Success in the World of Organized Veterinary Medicine
10:00 - 10:50   Stories from the Trenches: Leaders from Multiple Areas of Veterinary Medicine Share Experiences and Lessons Learned
11:00 – 11:50  Round Table Wrap Up: Q and A Healthy Discussion

Monday, July 28th, 3:00 – 4:00 pm
Meet and Greet Reception
AVMA Welcome Center, Colorado Convention Center

WVLDI Vision:   To achieve leadership excellence in every sector of veterinary medicine that fully reflects the diversity of the profession and society.

WVLDI Mission:   To support women in seeking and achieving leadership, policy, and decision-making positions within all areas of professional veterinary activity.

As one of the inaugural directors of WVLDI, I warmly invite you to participate in the above activities. Men are critical to the success of this initiative, so regardless of your gender or year of graduation, please get involved if you can. At a minimum, please share your thoughts about balanced representation of our membership in the leadership of all sectors of the profession.

[i] Smith, Donald F. "Five Days in July: Catalyzing a New Wave of Women’s Leadership in the AVMA". Perspectives in Veterinary Medicine. July 29, 2013.
[ii] Smith, Donald F., Ibid.
[iii] Pritt, Stacy (DVM, MS, CPIA, DACAW; Director IACUC, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center). Email to Donald Smith (Cornell University), July 17, 2014.
[iv] Three other directors, including a student representative and an ex officio representative from the AVMA; one of the original directors had to resign because of other responsibilities.
[v] Smith, Donald F. and Julie Kumble. "Women’s Leadership in Veterinary Medicine: A Course for Veterinary Students". Perspectives in Veterinary Medicine. April 2, 2014.
[vi] Cornell, Texas A&M and Virginia-Maryland Regional Colleges of Veterinary Medicine.
[vii] Larkin, Malinda. "Women’s leadership group goes to school". JAVMA News, posted June 18, 2014.
[x] Smith, Donald F. and Julie Kumble. "Women’s Leadership Development Workshop Featured at the 2014 AVMA Convention". Perspectives in Veterinary Medicine. July 11, 2014.

Dr. Smith welcomes comments at