Well, we are heading into July, a time that I typically think about sweet corn, RAGBRAI, and the AVMA annual meeting. I guess one out of three isn’t bad—2020 hasn’t managed to take away sweet corn yet. My beloved built a beautiful vegetable garden for me (hey, a positive outcome of COVID!) and while there’s no sweet corn planted, I’m eagerly watching the tomato plants grow. Thoughts of Iowa sweet corn and homegrown tomatoes are what get me through the dark winter days. Perhaps if I just stare expectantly at the tomato plants they’ll grow faster. (It should come as no surprise that my grades in plant biology provided impetus to turn towards a career in medicine, a move for which the world of botany undoubtedly celebrates.)
So much has happened in the last several months, events within and external to veterinary medicine. Within veterinary medicine, there is great news on the legislative front. Several IVMA-backed bills made it through this unusual legislative session; I’ll discuss two of them here: The Iowa Veterinary Student Loan Repayment Program bill was passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature on the appropriations bill to finalize funding. This is marvelous news as it will help keep valuable veterinary expertise in the state of Iowa and provide much needed debt relief to new graduates. Another piece of good news: the animal anti-cruelty bill, HF737, was passed in the House and Senate and is currently awaiting Governor Reynold’s signature. The outstanding work of the IVMA lobbyists, Jim Carney, Doug Struyk, and Jenny Dorman, cannot go without mention. They have tirelessly kept the IVMA Legislative Committee aware of relevant bills, maintained constant communication about the progress of such bills, and have helped us non-lawyer types to understand the specific wording and outcomes of legislation.
External to veterinary medicine, things are also changing rapidly. Unresolved tensions and conflict have come to the surface in dramatic fashion. But is this struggle really external to veterinary medicine? Earlier this year, students and colleagues at ISU helped faculty and administrators recognize the need to improve cultural competency in our environment. One outcome is that I’ve had the opportunity to read about the experiences of people unlike myself. There are really informative books, videos, movies and interviews out there that present a glimpse into life events that differ from my own. I acknowledge that I have much to learn.
In light of that reading, the following quote from Brené Brown resonated with me:
“In order to empathize with someone’s experience you must be willing to believe them as they see it and not how you imagine their experience to be.”
As veterinarians, we rely on our ability to assemble a diagnosis through listening, reading an animal’s gait, and interpreting data we discern from owners and the animals themselves. In these current times, I can’t help but think those same skills should make understanding each other easier, when we choose to employ them. For the sake of fully relating to our clients, improving the diversity of our profession, and hiring faculty and administrators that better reflect national demographics, it is time for veterinarians to improve our cultural competency.
We have much work to do in our world, locally and beyond. We need to survive COVID and then rebuild our communities as we adapt to a post-COVID reality. As I write this, the incidence of COVID-positive cases is skyrocketing in Story County, thus any dreams of an immediate, local, post-COVID phase are on hiatus, at least for Ames. Teaching and learning will look very different, but will still rely on engagement between students and instructors. Curbside veterinary visits may continue for a while, requiring patience and communication between clients, technicians and veterinarians. Necessary to adaptation in a post-COVID world will be opening our awareness of other peoples’ life experiences. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by learning more about another person’s journey.
And so. While things are changing, there are still things to anticipate. I may not stroll through the State Fair with a corndog in hand this year, but I will greatly enjoy the first (and twentieth) BLT with homegrown tomatoes and a side of sweet corn.
Enjoy summer, stay safe, and feel free to email any tips on getting tomatoes to grow just a little bit faster.
With deep appreciation,