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I’m the oldest of 5 children and now mother of 2 boys. I run a working farm in Boring, OR (which isn't a joke, the town is actually named Boring) with my husband and many, many farm animals ranging from dogs, cats, chickens, goats, a giant tortoise, and more.
My mom and my stepdad were hourly workers. I never knew my biological father. My only interactions with a doctor of any kind growing up were with my pediatrician. I remember telling him that I wanted to be a doctor. For the first time in my entire life someone asked me “what kind of doctor do you want to be?” I had no clue there were different types of doctors.
Throughout school I focused on the sciences because I was always the curious child. I did the “usual” catching critters, feeding, and caring for them when I was a kid. I gave no thought to veterinary medicine, mostly because I was never actually exposed to it, outside of my roommate in college, who wanted to be a veterinarian. I didn’t think that it was for me, a first generation college student that was surviving and learning solely on working and student loans. Instead, I honed in on Biochemistry and worked to complete my Ph.D. researching prostate cancer.
While working on my Ph.D in Biochemistry, I began to work on animal models. At the time I found 2 unicorns for the field: the lab animal medicine veterinarian was a Black male and his wife was a Black female general practice veterinarian. I remember talking to my husband and he said “you realize that you can be a veterinarian right?” I hadn’t.
I decided to look into what it would take to become a veterinarian only to realize that I was already teaching a lot of the prerequisites. I applied to 3 programs and got into all of them, ultimately selecting and completing my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine program at Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
With less than 2% of the veterinary population being Black you can be sure that BIPOC students aren’t aware of BIPOC veterinarians. I remember walking into the first day of vet school orientation and seeing one Black man and one other Black woman out of a class of over 120.
I began a children’s book series called What’s A Real Doctor, and the second installment What Does A Real Doctor Look Like, because representation starts early. As a mother to two biracial young boys, I’m conscious towards young BIPOC children's and students’ capabilities of seeing themselves in the full spectrum of professional fields and life settings. Showing brown vets gets the attention of brown children. That’s how diversifying veterinary medicine starts.
With diverse veterinary teams companies then have opportunities to diversify how they connect to pet parents. My very first dog Ebony died in my backyard because my parents were wage workers with 5 children and little awareness of veterinary care options. They had to make the choice of missing work (a lower paycheck) or taking Ebony to the vet and paying the bill for what they thought might have been just a temporary and minor health matter.
I joined Fuzzy because over the last few years, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in virtual care for humans, but the veterinary space hasn’t caught up. In the US there are an estimated 75 million pets without care and 50% of the pet parents we interact with daily have no relationship with a primary veterinarian. These pets deserve care and the pet parents deserve to trust and form real relationships with the people that care for their animals, even when those relationships are virtual.
There were many predatory veterinary telehealth platforms that sold my colleagues software with no training and no support, and as a result many veterinarians moved backward instead of forward in their abilities to deliver efficient care to pet parents in need.
Pet telehealth is inclusive and additive to pet lives. As a direct result, it adds to the value and quality of human lives.
As a leader within a diverse company, for diverse users, and for pets nationwide (hopefully globally, someday) I believe the work we do at Fuzzy can make a massive difference. All in all, my childhood dog Ebony’s death may have been avoidable… I’ll never know. I do know that she was loved deeply by all five children in the house. I hope to help families keep their loved ones around for as long and as well as they possibly can.