Changing the course of veterinary medicine starts with students

Changing the course of veterinary medicine starts with students

The following speech was given to the Colorado State University DVM Class of 2025 by Jackie Christakos, DVM, CVMA president 2020-2021.


On behalf of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association…congratulations and welcome to the profession! The talent, tenacity, and dedication that has brought you to this moment in your lives is extraordinary, as are all of you.

I’m here to introduce you to the CVMA, and to provide you with some unsolicited advice.

CVMA provides access to the veterinary community in Colorado both during and after your veterinary education. Our mission is to enhance animal and human health and welfare, and advance the knowledge and wellbeing of Colorado veterinarians through our four pillars of focus: advocacy, member wellbeing, education, and organizational health.

The CVMA is led by a group of volunteer veterinarians and a dedicated staff of passionate allies for our profession. I like to think of CVMA as the guardian of veterinary medicine and its members in Colorado, which now includes all of you! Because student members are so important to the health of our organization, dues are free to students for all four years of your education.

Now for the unsolicited advice part:

Are any of you old enough to remember the movie “A League of Their Own”? If not, do me a favor and find it on Netflix later. One of my favorite lines is the coach Jimmy talking to one of his star players who wants to quit when things get tough.

Jimmy says “Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up. You can’t deny that.”
Player says: “It just got too hard.”
Jimmy says: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Sub in veterinary medicine and you have an accurate description of how I feel about our unique, wonderful, challenging profession. It’s hard, it’s rewarding, it’s not for everyone…but it’s a part of who we are.

But the “hard” is also what makes it just dang hard too! We have many challenges on our road to forward progress in the profession, and your involvement in that progress will be critical to our success.

So today, on your very first official day in the profession, I’m going to task you with working on some of our toughest issues.  “Am I ready for this” you might say? I know you are, because you already know how to do hard things. That is how you arrived here today.

I would like to see veterinary medicine fully embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion. How do we do this? I’m not an expert — I need your help. But the way I see that each of us can make a difference is through modeling for those coming up behind us that indeed veterinary medicine has many faces, backgrounds, and perspectives. That I don’t have to look like you to believe in your talents and your passion for this profession. That extra encouragement and resources may be required for some groups to truly achieve equity for all. And that inclusion starts with innate compassion, especially for those who don’t see everything through the same lens as you.

I hope that many of us who find this profession as more than a career but a calling also find balance. To know when to ask for help, to find strength in showing we aren’t perfect, and to embrace our humanity.  To not be afraid to ask for what we need to feel fulfilled and healthy as a veterinarian while providing for those who have supported us through our education and careers.

And finally, to find a way to make veterinary medicine a sustainable marathon, not a sprint that ends in burnout, because we need and want all of you in this profession for the long haul.

I know the solutions are out there, but it is going to take all of us working together as a diverse community to find them. I hope you will become involved early in organized veterinary medicine and stay involved upon graduation. As colleagues, please reach out to me or any member of the CVMA board or staff if we can be of help to you during your veterinary journey.

Thank you and again…CONGRATULATIONS! (and don’t forget your homework!)