Unconscious bias: Combating its harmful effects

Our personal experiences and beliefs, including unconsciously held biases, have much impact on how we interact with people who differ from us. We often treat people from other backgrounds differently without even realizing it. This dynamic has real-world implications. Regularly being on the receiving end of bias – even when unintended – takes a mental and physical toll on those around us.

Because veterinary medicine is a largely homogenous profession that doesn’t reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of our society, it may be particularly prone to this phenomenon. Learn how to connect with individuals of different backgrounds in ways that support their uniqueness and promote the wellbeing of the whole veterinary team. This lecture originally was presented at the 2019 Veterinary Wellbeing Summit under the title “Did she really just say that? The impact of unconscious communication patterns on wellbeing in the veterinary profession.”

The development of the AVMA Veterinary Wellbeing Summit 2019 is made possible through educational funding from Zoetis, Hills Pet Nutrition and Banfield Pet Hospital.

Participants can expect to learn about:

  • The nuances of microaggressions, including where they come from, the power they have on interpersonal communication, and our collective and individual responsibility to address them
  • Why members of underrepresented groups may experience increased stress tied to cultural factors
  • Approaches to connect with individuals of different backgrounds in ways that support their uniqueness

Garnetta Santiago, MA, LVT, is manager of academic and professional affairs at Zoetis. In this role she helps drive strategic engagement with colleges of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology programs in the United States and Caribbean. She also fosters educational, wellbeing, and professional development outreach to the veterinary profession. Prior to joining Zoetis, she was the veterinary technician strategy lead at Hill's Pet Nutrition.

Santiago earned her veterinary science technology degree from SUNY Delhi. She has worked in small- and mixed-animal clinical practice, shelter medicine, and as an adjunct faculty member in Ulster County Community College’s veterinary technology program. She holds a professional certificate in online education instructional design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With areas of interest in feline medicine, veterinary technician advancement, veterinary wellness, and diversity, Santiago lectures extensively on a wide range of topics including professional and personal empowerment, small animal nutrition, and cultural competency in veterinary medicine. She was elected president of the New York State Association of Veterinary Technicians in June 2017.