Yuri A. Lawrence, DVM, PhD, MS, MA, DACVIM (SAIM) (he/him)
What inspired you to become a Board-certified veterinary specialist?
When I decided to become a veterinarian, becoming a Board-certified veterinary specialist was not something I was even aware of as a choice and the gift of being a veterinarian was all I had envisioned. As I progressed through the curriculum at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, I was inspired by the spectacular command of knowledge displayed by my instructors, who were Board-certified specialists. Furthermore, I loved how cerebral the practice of internal medicine was and how, due its multi-disciplinary nature, it permitted specialization while still commanding a large amount of information. Notwithstanding, internists were known as problem solvers, brainiacs, and I saw myself as obtaining those characteristics by achieving this designation instead of what I would be adding to the specialty by my presence.
Are there any resources or pieces of advice that helped you along the way?
The best and most helpful resources were people; and by people, I mean mentors and advocates. They are those special individuals at each stage of my formation who saw me and made me feel seen. Who believed in my humanity and pushed me to do more, to be more, to be better. I remember getting an 89% on the first exam in my master’s of anatomy and neurobiology program and I was feeling pretty good. One of those people said, "Yuri, I know you can do better," and I will never forget the joy and pride I felt. It was the first time someone other than my mother expected more from me and not less.
Is there a story or experience that stands out in your mind that reaffirmed your decision to work in specialty veterinary medicine?
I have always been very decisive and did not require much affirmation other than my mother’s smile. Nevertheless, for me it was the journey and I relished it and savored each moment.
What is something you wish the general public knew about veterinary specialists?
I wish they knew we spend an equivalent quantity of time as our allopathic medicine counterparts on our education and similarly, despite how much time or resources they may be spending with an internist, they are the last person you want to cut off a mass during an endoscopic study in the same way that dentist is unlikely to deliver a baby.
How is specialty veterinary medicine paving the way for advances in veterinary science?
Specialty veterinary medicine allows us to translate advances in veterinary science into advanced medical treatments and diagnostics for our companion animals.
When it comes to increasing diversity in veterinary specialty medicine, what kind of resources or changes would you like to see from the ACVIM and/or similar organizations? To phrase it another way, how can the ACVIM better support its diverse members?
I would like to see the ACVIM, and other similar organizations practice the change they seek to create. There is no shortage of organizations, universities, companies, and hospitals whose diversity and inclusion efforts are limited to a statement on their webpage, and this is totally inadequate. There is no shortage of organizations, universities, companies, and hospitals that sponsor a few scholarships for people of color to attend college or a school of veterinary medicine each year, however the impact of this policy is negligible. There is no shortage of organizations, universities, companies, and hospitals that support the concept diversity and inclusion, but if you look at their executive board or management team, it is homogenous. It is unclear how these institutions hope to promote diversity outside their walls while failing to do so within their walls. Furthermore, welcoming a person of color to the table and then saying please leave everything that makes you different outside and conform is not inclusion. The challenges that arise from learning how to adapt to people who are different is what generates the culture that can excel in any environment and adjust to change, which is inevitable.