PVM Student’s Passion for Diversity Brings Change to SAVMA Leadership Structure

Kyle Hohu

Kyle Hohu
DVM Class of 2017

A Purdue veterinary student is advocating for diversity, inclusion and wellness in the veterinary profession through his efforts to establish a new Cultural Outreach Officer position on the executive board of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA). After spearheading the drive to create the position, Kyle Hohu, of the DVM Class of 2017, now serves as one of 18 students on the SAVMA executive board from veterinary schools across the country.

Kyle first joined SAVMA in 2013, serving as PVM's SAVMA Junior Delegate. He was drawn to the position because it involved student leadership, traveling to conferences and meeting other student leaders, as well as the opportunity to learn about issues that affect veterinary students from around the country. Kyle also attended SAVMA House of Delegate meetings, where he was joined by two delegates representing each veterinary school in the country, along with some from Canada and the United Kingdom. Kyle's service in this position also fostered his passion for diversity. "During my time as delegate, I served on the Integrative Diversity and Communications Committee. That was when I first became interested in the issues of diversity and inclusion as they pertain to veterinary students and the veterinary profession," said Kyle.

Even though SAVMA had a committee devoted to diversity, Kyle noticed there was not a corresponding position on the organization's executive board. To address that concern, Kyle developed the idea of a cultural outreach officer position that would focus on issues of diversity, inclusion and wellness. "I think that these are important issues in the profession and among veterinary students. Student wellness has a lot to do with a student's feeling of inclusion in their environment," Kyle explained. "Additionally, veterinarians see a wide range of animals from a very diverse clientele. This creates the need for veterinarians to not only be well versed in different animals and diseases, but also the different cultures and lifestyles of pet owners. By being able to relate to and understand clients, as well as their animals, veterinarians can care for their patients better and establish a better relationship with their clients."

Kyle first presented his concept for the officer position during the SAVMA meeting held at the 2015 AVMA Convention.  "I created the position as an ad hoc position to the SAVMA executive board, which presides over the SAVMA House of Delegates. I then had one year to work through a list of duties that I had proposed, assess the feasibility of these duties for the position and establish a body of work that would address these issues," Kyle said. Duties included collaborating with AVMA's Director of Diversity and International Initiatives, AAVMC's Office of Diversity and the Broad Spectrum Veterinary Student Association, as well as attending various veterinary wellness and diversity conferences.  After Kyle's one year "trial run" of the position, he further refined the list of duties until he was confident the responsibilities would be both meaningful and manageable. 

Everything came together this past summer at the 2016 AVMA Convention in San Antonio, where the SAVMA House of Delegates voted to create a permanent cultural outreach officer position on the SAVMA executive board. Kyle now is serving a one year term as the national SAVMA Cultural Outreach Officer, and training his successor.

This story is part of the 2016 Annual PVM Report.

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