Let’s talk about Bruno, the 2022 Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference day two keynote speaker, including what inspired his talk and the importance of BLEND

Disney’s blockbuster movie Encanto has taken households by storm, bringing Nicole Bruno, DVM, and her children to watch it repeatedly. The more she watched and listened to the music, including the popular song “We’re Not Talking About Bruno,” the more she saw the connection between this animated film and the ups and downs of the veterinary profession. This apparent link led Bruno, the veterinarian, to use Encanto to talk about his experiences at this year’s Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference (ACVC) for his keynote address.

In this interview with dvm360®, Bruno deepens his career in veterinary medicine and how Encanto and BLEND, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) veterinary hospital certification program, help her create a safe space in veterinary medicine for all.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I have been practicing small animal medicine for 16 years. I graduated from Cornell University in 2006. Before that, I’m from Queens, New York, and I’m mixed race; my father is Colombian and my mother is black. Growing up in a diverse city, like New York, and then having diversity within my family, I embraced exposure to differences. I saw this in my classmates in school, growing up, and was kind of a part of my daily life just having a mix, for lack of better words, of 2 beautiful cultures. When I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian, it was very obvious that I wasn’t going to fit in, strictly speaking. I was usually the only person of color in the hospitals where I attended my summer programs or volunteer work, and I always felt out of place.

What inspired your opening speech?

When I looked Encanto the first time, I don’t think I even thought of using it as a keynote. I just got lost in the story, the music and just had fun with my kids. But the more I listened to the movie, listened to the soundtrack, and watched it—because kids never want to watch a movie just once—the more I started to see how it meshed with some of the issues we see in veterinary medicine.

The film is based on a grandmother who lost her husband, had triplets, and her triplets received gifts when they were 5 years old. These donations help protect them in the village. The various gifts that the family received, and ultimately the grandchildren receive, are [similar to] gifts that veterinary professionals have, and sometimes gifts become burdens. We don’t have a profession that requires us to prioritize our mental well-being and accept cultural differences. So when we don’t allow people to show us who they are, as they are, and express who they want to be in this profession, we wear them out because their light has to be dimmed and dim. This has sometimes caused them to leave an impression in our own profession which faces vet shortages and just mental illness in general.

We need to do better as a profession, as leaders, to recognize our people, develop them, and honor their gifts and differences so they can be the best version of themselves and ultimately help to create and sustain the profession we all want it to be. part of alive and thriving – where we all thrive, not just patients.

Why is BLEND important?

I always wanted to be in places where I felt like I belonged. For me, creating a program like BLEND allows hospitals to take the first step toward creating an environment where people from all walks of life want to show up and belong in that workplace. Because I used to go into the practices and immediately based on how I felt, I determined whether I was going to stay, thrive there, get everything I needed or not. Because I mentor so many students I know they want they still have the same feelings I had 16 years ago which means we haven’t done much to change that. When they walk into a hospital, people need to feel they are going to be received and connected with us so that we can do what is best for the patient. In vet school they teach us a lot about medicine, but the other things, the real heart of it, people, leadership…we ultimately have to learn on the fly, in addition to developing our skills in vet medicine , and it’s hard. This is one of the reasons we see a lot of burnout, and only mental health issues in our profession. We need to do better to change the environments in which professionals operate, and that’s why it matters.

You mentioned that you mentor vet students, what is the best advice you can give them?

I think a lot of times with students it’s kind of a gift and a curse because the ones who come in and are focused, they’re like, ‘I have to have all these requirements. I need to get my experience hours. I have to make sure I have good letters of recommendation’… It’s so like what [veterinary students] you have to do that sometimes they forget to take advantage of these moments. I try to remind them: enjoy this moment, learn from the cases, and you’ll be surprised how well you remember. I tried to tell them that not everyone’s journey is the same and not put so much pressure on themselves to click those boxes, and just try to focus on the journey itself and the joy that accompanies it. I remember being in their shoes, but I never had anyone who remembers those times, and I hope I can give them that level of support, in addition to helping them get into school. veterinary.

If you could lecture anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I like the beach. The beach is my happy place and… the accessibility of being close to the beach is what I miss most about living in Texas now. One of the trips I’m so grateful to have taken before COVID-19 was to Colombia with my dad and sister. I would like to be back on this beach in Colombia and give a presentation on everything related to this space.

Honestly, I think the thing I’ve learned the most about doing this type of work is that people just want to talk, and they want to feel like it’s safe to talk. I think the whole vibe of a beach would automatically create this safe space for people and give people a chance to just talk.