AAVMC Hires New Director for Wellbeing

Over the past several years, the veterinary medical community has increasingly focused on wellbeing. That move followed growing recognition that the veterinary medical profession carries a risk of suicide that is higher than the general population and experiences other job-related stresses and hazards, such as compassion fatigue.

Many member institutions have hired mental health professionals and counselors, and the AAVMC recently established a Veterinary Mental Health Professionals (VMHP) group within the Academic Affairs Committee to help coordinate their efforts and share practices.

Now, the AAVMC has created a new Director for Wellbeing position and hired Makenzie Peterson to develop and implement programs that promote wellbeing at AAVMC member institutions. Peterson will bring a systems-oriented, community wellbeing perspective to this important new position.
Peterson has been serving as Wellbeing Program Director at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and as Vice Chair of the VMHP.

“Makenzie is a widely respected professional in a rapidly emerging field and we’re delighted to welcome her to the AAVMC,” said CEO Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe. “This is a critical moment in the development of a very important program for us. Makenzie’s expertise, network and systems perspective will be instrumental in helping us elevate the quality of wellbeing programs throughout our academic community.”

As a public health professional, Peterson’s expertise is in the development of community-wide programming that complements individual clinical counseling efforts to improve overall wellbeing. Her duties will include catalyzing the development of a wellbeing initiatives for academic veterinary medicine and working with mental health professionals at all member institutions to develop outreach and other programs that enhance the wellbeing of faculty, staff and students.

"In times like this, wellbeing is more important than ever,” said Peterson. “I'm excited to be part of the AAVMC team and collaborate with all the member institutions to help us collectively work towards a culture of wellbeing in academic veterinary medicine.”

At Cornell, Peterson developed and led a comprehensive wellbeing program to enhance community wellbeing, productivity, satisfaction, and academic and professional success for faculty, staff, and students.

She formerly served as a health specialist for an MIT/Harvard-sponsored start-up that was based in Harvard Business School’s Innovation Lab that focused on educating college students on health topics. Peterson is also a health and wellness coach, certified rape crisis counselor, and opioid overdose prevention educator.

Peterson regularly speaks on topics related to mental and physical health, stress reduction, suicide prevention, compassion fatigue and burnout, mindfulness and meditation, interpersonal communication, grief and loss, imposter syndrome, growth mindset and resiliency, ethics and core values, and other wellbeing-related topics.

Peterson earned a Bachelor of Science in International Studies and a Master of Science (MSc) in health promotion and health education from the University of Utah. She will also be completing her Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) from the University of Southern California in 2022. Peterson begins her new position on April 20.