Fostering Diversity and Belonging through the VTIDESb Initiative

Fostering Diversity and Belonging through the VTIDESb Initiative

Garnetta and Peg

A pressing issue in veterinary medicine today—one that many people are not aware of—is a significant lack of diversity. Given the current shortage of veterinary professionals, inclusivity is more important than ever. Exclusion is both unfair and harmful. To cultivate a robust pipeline of happy and fulfilled veterinary professionals, we need to ensure that everyone feels seen and included and that our veterinary teams reflect the diversity of our communities. There are programs to improve diversity and inclusion for veterinary doctors, but few, if any, that address the impact on veterinary technicians.

Working to Make a Difference

Recognizing this challenge, Peg Wheeler, MS, LVT, Rarebreed’s student recruitment liaison, and Garnetta Santiago, MA, LVT, senior manager, academic and professional affairs at Zoetis, embarked on a mission to bring meaningful change through the VTIDESb (Veterinary Technician Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Support, and Belonging) grant program.

A Collaborative Effort

VTIDESb is a collaborative endeavor between Rarebreed, Zoetis, and the Association of Vet Tech Educators (AVTE). Hosted on AVTE’s website, the VTIDESb grant program provides funding to AVMA-accredited veterinary technology, veterinary nursing, and animal health technology programs, empowering students to host events that promote inclusivity and diversity. The AVTE board plays a crucial role in reviewing applications, ensuring that each event aligns with the initiative’s objectives. Rarebreed and Zoetis provide the funding, and AVTE administers the program.

Meeting DEI Requirements

One of the most significant impacts of VTIDESb is its role in helping colleges achieve their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) requirements. Accrediting bodies like the AVMA and National College Accreditation mandate DEI education within vet tech programs.

However, DEI can’t be taught in a classroom—it requires genuine community-building and hands-on experiences. VTIDESb meets this requirement by empowering students to take the lead in organizing events that foster inclusivity and understanding.

Building Community, Combating Burnout

Many students leave veterinary programs prematurely, citing a lack of belonging and support. By fostering a sense of community and acceptance, VTIDESb strengthens the pipeline of future vet techs and cultivates a culture of resilience within the profession. By embracing diversity, VTIDESb aims to create veterinary practices that reflect the communities they serve, where every client feels valued and understood.

A Path Forward

At its core, VTIDESb is more than just a grant program—it’s a catalyst for lasting change. By amplifying diverse voices and promoting understanding, VTIDESb paves the way for a brighter, more inclusive future in veterinary medicine. 

Through their tireless advocacy, Peg and Garnetta are driving meaningful progress, one event at a time. Together, they’re reshaping the narrative of veterinary education and practice, ensuring that everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.