Today's Veterinary Business

AUG 2018

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45 August/September 2018 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM Merriam-Webster dictionary defines justice as "the quality of being just, impartial or fair." We all aspire to be fair and unbiased in our dealings with one another. But because of realities such as uncon- scious bias, fairness is not always a naturally occurring phenomenon. We are prone to making fairness concessions based on our biases, which can lead to unfair outcomes, such as disproportionate access to education or medical care, just to cite two examples. Being fair often requires us to be deliberate in our application of rules and expectations. Meting out justice is not supposed to be an emotional endeavor. Being fair should simply require us to apply the standard in an impartial way that promotes equality. We are all for equality, right? Of course! It's Not Easy We largely aim to create societies in which people are treated equally, irrespective of race, gender identity, socioeconomic and geographic background, ability, or any other dif- ference. This is so clearly reflected in the coda of the Pledge of Allegiance, and it is a goal worthy of pursuit. If only life were so simple, but it is not. Being fair and equitable requires some work. Take, for instance, the follow- ing scenario. Two children are told they can have ice cream after they successfully complete their home- work and earn a passing grade on the assignment. One completes the homework and earns the passing grade. The other child does not complete the assignment, is ineligi- ble for ice cream and cries that this is not fair. The outcome might have felt unfair, but the application of the rules was impartial. But what if we knew more about the two students? Would additional information and context affect the way we viewed fairness and equality? What if you knew the assign- ment required computer and internet access? What if the student who successfully completed the assignment had access to both at home and the other child did not? What if you knew that the second child's attempts to complete the assignment at the local library were thwarted by a lack of transportation and limited facility hours? What if you knew that the child asked the teacher for a comparable assign- ment that could be completed on paper but the request was denied? If we knew all those things, would the denial of ice cream still be fair? I would argue emphatically, no. The child tried to achieve the goal, but numerous barriers that existed before the start of the task gave the child little chance of completing the assign- ment and being reward- ed with ice cream. While we cannot always know every back story to every situation, approaching decision making from an equity framework can help mit- igate such disparities. Community DIVERSITY TOOLBOX Guaranteed Access Equity is a remediation of justice designed to supplement or expand the way we apply the rules. The pur- suit of equity requires us to consider circumstances. In an equitable ver- sion of the ice cream example, the child without access to the tools to complete the assignment would, at a minimum, receive the assignment in an alternative, accessible format. The child could compete the assignment, which would then be graded and either the ice cream reward would be given or not based on the grade. Equity is not about the guaran- tee of an equal outcome; rather, it is about the guarantee of access and the chance of an equal outcome. It is about ac- knowledging that there might be a need to level the playing field, and, if that is not possi- ble, reconceptualizing fairness altogether. The Vet School Example There are two cir- cumstances in which I see the dilemmas U.S. citizens who pledge allegience to the flag finish with the phrase "and justice for all." This month, let's explore the concepts of justice and equity as they relate to diversity, inclusion and veterinary medicine. By Lisa M. Greenhill, MPA, EdD Fairness and equity for all While we cannot always know every back story to every situation, approaching decision making from an equity framework can help mitigate disparities. Traditional methods of evaluating applicants for veterinary school admission are not designed to consider applicants beyond rigid academic and testing metrics.

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