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WSVMA DEI Spotlight Interview – Dr. Ken Norris

December 17, 2021

The WSVMA is committed to ensuring the success of the Washington veterinary profession. To help build a healthier veterinary community, the Board of Directors established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative. They firmly believe that a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment creates a space where everyone feels valued, safe, and can thrive. This will directly contribute to practice success by fueling innovation and personal well-being that will ultimately enhance the quality of care we provide to our animals. A standing DEI committee was created in early 2021 to implement the Board’s initiative and here we highlight some of those committee members.

Ken Norris, DVM
Blue Mountain Humane Society, Walla Walla

What made you decide to get involved with the WSVMA on the DEIC?

I decided to get involved because I see the price of the lack of diversity in our profession. I am fortunate to be the veterinarian for a small but mighty humane society in Walla Walla. We offer community animal health programs and I am frustrated that my inability to communicate in a foreign language or my cultural incompetency will ensure that the programs we offer won’t reach all community members. As veterinarians, we are already struggling with access to care and when you add language and cultural barriers to the mix, it only makes things more difficult and we miss the chance to help a lot of people and animals. When the WSVMA announced the creation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, I decided to stop talking about the problem and try to help.

Tell us a little bit about your position on the committee and your responsibilities?

I am currently one of the co-chairs of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. It is not the role I expected, but it has been great. As co-chair, I work with a lot of help and input to create the agenda for the committee. I lead the meetings but that is very easy because everyone else on the committee is knowledgeable, interested, and passionate about our mission. I usually spend more time learning than leading. I also have had the chance to represent our committee at the WSVMA board meeting and the membership meeting at the Pacific Northwest Veterinary Conference this year.

What changes would you like to see in the profession regarding diversity and inclusion?

I would simply like to see the veterinary profession reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. I have run into too many stereotypes about “others” and their attitudes towards pets and animals. In my experience, these attitudes are just flat wrong. The world is changing and my kids will grow up in a more diverse and inclusive society. It just makes sense for veterinary medicine to keep pace with the changes. I love being a veterinarian and I think it can only make the profession stronger when all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds see it as a viable career.

Tell us what you love most about working in veterinary medicine?

It is really great to be a veterinarian. I appreciate my work in shelter medicine because it lets me serve in a job that keeps me close to the animals and reminds me why I wanted to be a vet in the first place. I get to do my best to help injured, lost and unwanted animals and I work with a group of dedicated and enthusiastic coworkers. The work can be difficult and there are plenty of hard days but the work and the people keep me going and hopeful.

What would you tell a WSVMA member who is interested in volunteering on a committee?

I would tell them to do it. Volunteering on a committee connects you with other veterinarians across the state all working for a common purpose. It is a great antidote to the recent years of high stress and isolation. Not only do you interact with people in other places, but also with people involved in all different aspects of veterinary medicine. The committee members on the DEIC come from private practice, research, academia, shelters, technicians, practice management, and more. It makes for a dynamic group and it is fun to be part of it.

What are your hopes for the committee?

My hope is that I have contributed to a conversation about where we are as a profession in regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion and what the future can hold. I think about the amazing demographic changes in veterinary medicine in the last 30 years and I am confident that 30 years from now, I’ll still be amazed at the changes.

Members of the WSVMA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee include Dr. Ken Norris and Jade Velazquez, LVT, co-chairs, Dr. Mike Bellinghausen, Dr. Andrew Burich, Christie Cotterill, Dr. Britta Kiffney, Dr. Laura Neal, and Dr. Irene Yen.


Posted December 17, 2021