“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.” -Joshua Waitzkin
As I watched our students celebrate our annual Diversity Day, I was impressed with their unity expressed through their voices, spirit, and talents. Our students’ energy reflected the strength that is exhibited when we celebrate our nation’s multicultural tapestry. We celebrate those that join us from various backgrounds and cultures, learning from each other as we come together with a common purpose to foster education, research, and service to society.
It is no surprise that in the business world, companies with top quartile diversity (defined as women and international representatives) on their executive boards, generated returns that were ~50% higher, on average, than the companies in the bottom diversity quartile. We should not be surprised that in our profession, when we harness the power of a diverse workforce, we better position ourselves to address society’s problems. Our school has consistently demonstrated our commitment to recruit a diverse workforce and student population. For example, we consistently rank in the top three institutions nationally in our numbers of under-represented groups for our veterinary professional students.
These statistics, while impressive, do not measure what empowers our students, faculty, and staff. Equally important to a successful and diverse workforce is resiliency. Diversity is synergistic with resiliency; mirror images of each other. When we open ourselves to learn from others and listen to their experiences, we draw strength from their ideas and history. The characteristic of a resilient person is not easy to quantify, as it is often only revealed after adversity is introduced to their lives, shattering their plans and perceptions of the future.
We may not be able to predict how we will react to stressful events that inevitability will come to each of us. Life is marked by events beyond our control that seem to happen at inopportune times. What I constantly observe in our students, staff, and faculty is a strong sense of resolve in the face of difficult tasks that confront them in their work, and in their personal lives. Veterinarians face the fact that we must uniquely deal with euthanizing the very patients that we swore to save from pain and illness. At the moment we take a life, we feel a bit our humanity slip away. It is our resolve and training that helps us overcome our sadness in these moments, restoring our sense of purpose.
In the moment that we face what seems like defeat and rise again, we have experienced a moment of truth that clarifies the fog of disappointment and frustration. Our students who have endured the many years of study and long work hours to put themselves in a position to be accepted to our school have already exhibit their fortitude by the time they join our ranks. Our graduate students, house officers, and staff who routinely work through difficult setbacks, and unfailingly get their jobs done, demonstrate their perseverance and passion. Faculty must face the gauntlet of a system of evaluation that does not let up, constantly demanding their contribution to the mission.
The success of our school is made possible by people who consistently confront these challenges and overcome their personal battles and self-doubt to achieve excellence through their actions and deeds. Our diversity and spirit of inclusiveness is the thread that is woven in our fabric of resiliency, helping us face our challenges and lifting us to new heights of achievement as a community.