Zoetis board member Dr. Reed shares his perspectives as a Black leader in animal health
Zoetis is committed to continue speaking on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion to drive action in our business and the animal health industry. CEO Kristin Peck hosted a conversation recently with long-time Zoetis Board member Dr. Willie Reed for his perspectives as a Black leader in animal health and Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, and how his experiences shaped his success.
In their conversation (see link for full 20 minute video), Dr. Reed shared his personal story of growing up in a small town in Alabama during de-segregation and the role his grandmother played by inspiring him and educating him as a young boy. “I grew up in a time and place where dreams for many were just dreams. I had a dream too, and I was fortunate my dream came true,” said Reed.
Reed grew up in an area where there was only one veterinarian in the county and no mentors to help him and encourage him to become a veterinarian. It was at Tuskegee University where he first met teachers and physicians who looked like him and encouraged him to pursue his dream. His interests led him to study pathology and a career in veterinary medicine (fun fact – he also had an internship in downtown Kalamazoo, MI, at one of Zoetis’ legacy operations, Upjohn).
But even with his degrees and credentials, Reed still faced discrimination and prejudice. “As an African American, you have to almost accept the fact you don’t have the presumption of competence no matter how many years of experience or degrees you have,” said Reed. “There is the need to constantly demonstrate you have what it takes to do the job.”
Still, Reed is encouraged and realistic about the progress he sees in improving diverse representation in the animal health industry and veterinary profession. Today, about 20% of the students studying veterinary medicine the U.S. are from under-represented communities, a marked increase from years ago, says Reed.
“We have lots of work to do because we are not going to get there overnight,” he continued. “We have to commit more time and resources to programs that will attract minority candidates… [and] in order to make gains, we are going to have to get used to being uncomfortable. It’s going to take some real heart-to-heart discussions. I am very proud of what Zoetis is doing and the fact Zoetis sees D&I as a driver of business success.”
On a personal note, Reed concludes: “Establishing personal relationships is so important when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion… because [they] allow for cross-cultural understanding. We can’t understand each other unless we get to know each other. That’s very important.”
Learn more about Zoetis’ commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion here.