Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Hires Expert to Support Veterinarians’ Mental Health and Wellness

June 10, 2024

Ottawa, Ont. – The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has welcomed Dr. Kathy Keil as its first Director, Veterinary Wellness, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to support the veterinary profession in addressing mental health and wellness issues and assist DEI endeavours.

The last several years have been incredibly difficult for veterinary professionals. The COVID-19 pandemic exasperated the workforce shortage, leading to increased mental, ethical, and social distress, increased workloads, and more cases of compassion and empathy fatigue, and burnout.

Veterinarians tend to experience mental health issues more than the general population. A 2017 convenience sample survey of 1,403 Canadian veterinarians found that symptoms of anxiety and depression were higher compared to the general population. Participants also had a 12-month prevalence for suicidal ideation of 26.2 per cent, which was substantially higher than the estimated prevalence for the general Canadian population. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are known risk factors for suicide. There is a need for comprehensive health-promoting and preventive programs particularly for mental health, psychological and occupational safety, and stewarding a sense of belonging for all veterinary professionals, teams, and work environments. 

A workforce with healthy individuals, working in psychologically safe, inclusive, and accessible environments, with supportive team members is foundational for the sustainable success of the veterinary profession and its positive impact on wider society. The Canadian veterinary profession provides significant positive contributions to the economy and local communities where veterinarians live, and their businesses operate.

“I am genuinely committed to driving change in veterinary wellness and DEI to facilitate truly inclusive and psychologically healthy workplaces where all members of the profession feel a sense of belonging,” explains Dr. Keil. “Veterinary medicine is a meaningful, important, and rewarding profession. We work in diverse environments and sectors with various animal species. It’s satisfying and joyful to make a difference by enhancing animal health and welfare, assisting clients and producers, contributing to a safe, secure food supply, and public disease monitoring.”

Dr. KeilDr. Keil's veterinary career has spanned almost 30 years, with a variety of experience including clinical practice, the pharmaceutical industry, workplace health and safety, research, and as a published author.

Her graduate degree in psychology, multiple certificates in mental health and psychological safety, and multi-year involvement in the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and CVMA wellness committees allows her a deep understanding of the issues veterinarians face and strategies needed to support veterinarians during occupational stress and burnout. 

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Keil join us here at the CVMA,” says Dr. Trevor Lawson, 2023-24 CVMA President. “Kathy’s proven ability to connect with veterinary peers coupled with her vast experience fills me with so much hope for the future of our profession.”

Most recently, Dr. Keil was chair of the CVMA Wellness Advisory Group where her work encompassed collaborative efforts to launch The Working Mind, Togetherall, and the CVMA-Merck Animal Health It’s Time to Talk about Mental Health in Vet Med campaign. Her ongoing knowledge of the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and cultural humility comes from past and current participation in DEI working groups and participatory interest in ongoing DEI events that affect the veterinary profession.

“Every veterinary professional matters, and this work to support and steward wellness and DEI matters. I am eager to see this work improve well-being and help my colleagues have meaningful, sustainable, and inclusive careers,” adds Dr. Keil.  

In her new role, Dr. Keil will develop, design, oversee, and implement the CVMA’s Wellness and DEI Programs in support of one of the association’s strategic priorities of establishing a veterinary profession that enjoys a healthy working environment.

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Lori Ahronson
Manager, Communications and Public Relations
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association