BluePearl shares the unique stories and perspectives of three diverse veterinary professionals.
Every February, people across the United States join together in celebrating National Black History Month. Not only does this month serve as a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, but that our individual backgrounds and experiences are essential to the ongoing story of America.
Throughout National Black History Month, organizations and individuals shine a light on the immeasurable contributions of Black Americans. Many also take this time to challenge themselves and one another to increase inclusiveness and diversity in their workplaces and communities as well as to be more equitable in both large and small ways.
To demonstrate its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging, throughout National Black History Month, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital is celebrating the resilience, persistence, and progress of its Black and African American Associates. Delving into three diverse Associates’ perspectives, ideas, and experiences, BluePearl proudly shares their stories.
I pride myself on being a leader that cultivates an environment of respect and care. Our team believes that if you are good to your people, the people will be good to patients and clients,” said Sara Belton, Client Service Supervision, BluePearl in Columbia South Carolina, and color guard coach for Allen University’s (a local HBCU – Historically Black College or University) Marching Band of Gold. “As a Black person who has worked in veterinary medicine for close to 12 years, it saddens me to say that 2021 was the first time I ever had the pleasure to work with a Black veterinarian. There have been years where I did not have any other Black colleagues. I am happy to see more and more African Americans in this field. It is a sure sign of a growing and developing culture shift,” said Sara. “One historical Black figure whose work had the most impact on me is Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson. Not only did he pursue higher education and become a doctor at a time when it was very difficult for people of color, but he used his achievements to pave the way for others by establishing a veterinary college for Black students. His legacy is beyond amazing to me.”
“I make every attempt to meet people where they are, but admit it is a daily challenge. I try to remind myself of something heard in a Brene Brown podcast: what if everyone is doing their very best each and every day? I also try to be sensitive to casting stereotypes onto people based on what I think they should be or know or do,” said Coretta Cosby Patterson, DVM, DACVIM, PGCVE, Group Medical Director, Research Development at BluePearl, and mentor to Black veterinary students at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “As a Black woman raised in a major city, that [casting stereotypes onto people] has particular poignancy for me. I do not want people to assume things about me or my family based solely on the color of our skin. I think that helps me maintain a better frame of reference for others. I have also mentored veterinary and pre-veterinary students in the past, so I have an extensive network of contacts that I still connect with. This can be an isolating profession in which to work for some, and I like to help where I am able to.”
“Being kind, understanding, and encouraging comes free, but to treat people with kindness, understanding, and encouragement is invaluable to those receiving it. I treat the individuals I work with with the same consideration I give my family,” said Kyle Smith, Practice Manager, BluePearl Stone Oak – San Antonio, Texas, and founder of the Carol Smith Memorial Scholarship, helping young black leaders go to college. “At the age of 16, I started my life in veterinary medicine because I love this field. I didn’t know or see many black representations when I started, but I am excited to see the growth in representation over the years – in the field and at BluePearl. I envy those that are starting in this field that have so many people of color to be influenced by. It shows them that Veterinary Medicine has a position of leadership for them,” Kyle added.
When asked about what companies and society as a whole could do to better recognize Black History Month – more specifically, the accomplishments of Black Americans – Sara, Coretta, and Kyle all agreed that highlighting contributions of unknown Black people (in the profession and beyond) and those in local communities would be a step in the right direction.
During Black History Month, it can feel as though we see the same stories about the same figures recycled year after year. It is important to educate each other on the stories that are not as widely known,” said Sara. “Some suggestions would be to have events where we learn about the stories and achievements of Black people who were or are from your local community. You could also learn about figures from American history that you did not know had such an impact. One example being Hercules and James Hemings, enslaved chefs of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, shaped American cuisine. Another being how Bayard Rustin actually organized and strategized the March on Washington but was considered a liability for his lifestyle preferences, so he was essentially kept hidden from the public. There are so many amazing contributors to our history that we simply do not know about on a larger scale yet.”
“Having events that highlight the many contributions of Black people is important. These highlighted contributions could include inventions that make all American lives better like the refrigerator but also wonderful science pioneers like Vivien Thomas or Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett,” said Coretta. “Going even further, I think rather than just holding event in the month of February, let’s have continual dialogues and presentations throughout the year. I think entire organizations and society would benefit from learning about microaggressions and other inclusion issues so that we can be better aware and not commit them.”
BluePearl’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity go far beyond February and the walls of its practices. BluePearl will continue to take steps to foster more equitable and inclusive workplaces, as well as recognize Associates’ innovation and achievements, as they continue to bring progress to their individual practices and communities and build upon the BluePearl mission of providing remarkable care to pets.