3 Aha! Moments with Dr. Michael Blackwell

The animal welfare field is lucky to have forward thinkers like Dr. Michael J. Blackwell, whose most recent honors include Maddie’s Fund’s 2020 Avanzino Leadership Award. And we’re super-honored that Dr. Blackwell is going to be a part of the Spring Conference for Animal Welfare Advancement next week, sharing insights on the AlignCare program that aims to improve access to veterinary care for families in need. 

To get an idea of what AlignCare is about—and get a preview of the genius stuff you’ll be hearing from Dr. Blackwell!—here are some high-level insights from a recent interview he did with The Association.

A few words about words

Dr. Blackwell takes care with his words and messaging, and it is no mistake when you hear him using the term non-human family members. “They used to be called ‘pets’ or ‘animals,’” he says, “but when we look at our communities, we see bonded families made up of humans and non-humans, and that emotional bond is significant. If we go about our work as reaching families and not about treating animals, this is an important message. We will make better decisions with a family-centric focus.”

On connecting shelters and the veterinary industry

“The biggest resource available for non-human medical care is the private veterinary medical industry,” says Dr. Blackwell. “A community could decide to put more clinics into shelters, but this duplicates resources in that community. Since we’ve got a big resource in private veterinary practices, let’s figure out a way to leverage them to help.”

On increasing diversity in veterinary medicine

“Our lack of diversity reflects what is America,” says Dr. Blackwell. “We have never had to recruit students into veterinary medicine—there is never a shortage in the pipeline.” But historically, that pipeline consists of students who’ve always known they’ve wanted to be veterinarians and have been well-educated in good schools. But what about students, proposes Dr. Blackwell, who haven’t had the opportunity to attend the best schools, and “happen to be vets at heart but don’t know it?” Students who have the raw talent and would succeed in the profession if given the chance to develop their skills? “Are we going to be a passive profession and just take whoever shows up? Or do we want to be more proactive at recruitment?”

These aha! moments are part of a longer conversation between Dr. Blackwell and The ASPCA’s Dr. Chumkee Aziz, President of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. We hope we’ve enticed you to listen to the full podcast. You can also watch it as a video podcast.


Dr. Blackwell and T’ Fisher will be talking more about how AlignCare can work in your community during their session next Thursday, June 10, from 2-3 ET. There’s still time to register for the conference and join us!


The Association

The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.


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