AAVMC’s Veterinary Mental Health Professionals (VMHP)
The AAVMC’s Veterinary Mental Health Professionals (VMHP) are preparing veterinary students to graduate with competencies necessary to be healthy, successful professionals in veterinary medicine.
The VMHP are enhancing and building wellness and support programs at colleges of veterinary medicine, developing best practices in veterinary counseling and wellness agendas within colleges, and providing counsel and expertise to veterinary leadership.
To implement evidence-based, comprehensive, developmental models that enable all veterinary students to thrive in their education and to flourish as veterinary professionals.
- To address the personal, social, educational, mental health, and career needs of veterinary students.
- To cultivate a culture that values a healthy, diverse and inclusive veterinary community.
- To graduate students with competencies necessary to be healthy, successful professionals in veterinary medicine.
- To provide counsel and expertise to veterinary leadership.
The Value of Veterinary Mental Health Professionals
The work of Veterinary Mental Health Professionals is integral to the veterinary education system. Research and anecdotal reports suggest that Doctors of Veterinary Medicine experience high levels of depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties, including suicidality, at a higher rate than the general population, and the other health professions. The importance of veterinary wellness and support is well recognized as evidenced through the sponsorship of wellness initiatives by many veterinary leadership and corporate entities. Addressing the personal, social, educational, mental health, and career needs of veterinary students will enable all veterinary students to thrive in their education and to flourish as veterinary professionals.
The VMHP includes all licensed mental health professionals working within colleges of veterinary medicine. The VMHP works together with colleges of veterinary medicine and veterinary leadership to increase awareness of the personal, social, educational, mental health, and career needs of veterinary students.
History of VMHP
Veterinary mental health professionals have been working in veterinary colleges for many years; because most of the professionals were working as solo practitioners, there was a strong need for collaboration and support across colleges. The VMHP group began with a “think tank” meeting of university veterinary counselors convening at an interdisciplinary conference examining wellness issues within veterinary medicine. The counselors in attendance believed that their experience working with individuals within the colleges and in practice allows them the unique opportunity to look across institutions and assess issues common to student and DVM counseling students. In addition, the group recognized a need to share information and knowledge between those with mental health expertise and the leaders of the veterinary profession.
This core group of experienced VMHPs have worked over the past year to connect with their colleagues, share practice models, ideas and programs, and provide mentoring and support for one another. The first “think tank” was in June of 2016 and the second was held prior to the Veterinary Wellness Summit in November of 2016. Conversations with AAVMC and AVMA leadership started with the first meeting as the VMHPs recognized the need for a formal committee which will allow for a supportive network with shared resources, as well as a more unified voice with which to help guide veterinary wellness and wellbeing efforts throughout the profession.
In July of 2017 the VMHP officially became part of the AAVMC under the Academic Affairs Committee.
VMHP 2020/2021 Officers:
Chair: Stephanie Johnson, LCSW, Louisiana State University
Co Chair: Alex Rowell, PsyD, Oregon State University
Vice Chair: Makenzie Peterson, MSc, Cornell University
VMHP Emeritus Members
Jennifer Brandt, Ph.D, Ohio State University
Kathleen Ruby, Ph.D, Washington State University
Dr. Ted Mashima, AAVMC liaison