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‘Our work is sacred’

  • CVM staff at Iverson Bell

    ‘Our work is sacred’

    CVM hosts Iverson Bell Midwest Regional Diversity Summit, brings together veterinary professionals and students for a more inclusive future

    Members of the College of Veterinary Medicine community attending the Iverson Bell Midwest Regional Diversity Summit gather for a group photo. 

As attendees of the 2024 Iverson Bell Midwest Regional Diversity Summit arrived at the event site, they were greeted with banners emblazoned with the words: “From Scared to Sacred.”

This theme began as a spark of conversation at the Univesity of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine(CVM)—the summit’s host this year—and blossomed into a phrase representing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work and countering the pushback it faces in academia and beyond. 

Held May 21–23 in Minneapolis, the summit brought together dozens of veterinary professionals and students from across the Midwest to learn from one another, celebrate DEI efforts, and forge an inclusive future for the field of veterinary medicine. 

“Our work is sacred. Medicine is sacred,” Elizabeth Martinez-Podolsky, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at CVM, said in her opening remarks. “Every one of us whether a student, technician, scientist, professional, or academic has a reason and purposes for connecting with veterinary medicine. We aren't here by accident. We recognize our strength lies in coming together and widening our circle.”

More than 20 CVM faculty, staff, and students were among the speakers and presenters at the summit. Throughout their sessions and speeches, they shared both professional and personal experiences that have shaped their journey within the DEI space and the veterinary field. 

Dr. Raye Taylor, ’11 DVM, took the stage as one of the event’s keynote speakers, inviting the audience on an exploration of the lessons that come from experiencing figurative and literal loss and using them as a driving force for change.  

“Scared and sacred coexist. And there's a tumultuous spectrum of that coexistence,” she told attendees. “Sacred should not be placed on a shelf, but it should be experienced and shared, so it's always within us in our profession—a way of life that has seen many changes over the last several hundred years. So remembering our roots and the road that has brought us to this point will help us avoid setbacks and honor community wisdom that could be lost.”

Dr. Raye Taylor delivers her keynote speech at the 2024 Iverson Bell Midwest Regional Diversity Summit. 

Contributions to DEI efforts also were celebrated with an award ceremony held during the summit. Dr. Marxa Figueiredo, an associate professor at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, was named the 2024 Zoetis Diversity and Inclusion Award winner.

The award recognizes and honors a faculty or staff member of the colleges and schools of veterinary medicine in the Midwest who has shown exemplary dedication to the advancement of diversity and inclusion, thereby supporting an academic environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and conducive to the success of all faculty, staff, and students.

The summit itself honors Dr. Iverson Bell, an influential leader and DEI trailblazer within the veterinary community who was the first African-American veterinarian to hold the position of Vice President in the American Veterinary Medical Association. As part of his legacy, the biennial summit seeks to promote diversity and inclusion in the veterinary medicine field—particularly within academia.

The next Iverson Bell Midwest Diversity Summit will be held in 2026 and hosted by Ohio State University.