"The Relevancy of the LGBT Community and Professional Leadership" was the topic of a talk given by openly gay Roosevelt University President Charles Middleton at the Lesbian and Gay Veterinary Medical Association(LGVMA) annual meeting at the Hyatt McCormick Place Chicago July 21.
After opening remarks by LGVMA President Dr. Sandy Hazanow, Middleton spoke to a crowd of about 35 people about his career, the LGBT community and professional empowerment.
Middleton explained that it is far more difficult for people to get into veterinary school than it is for people to get into medical school. People will forgive a doctor for failing to keep their grandmother alive but people will never stop blaming a veterinarian for the demise of their cat or dog, noted Middleton.
Then Middleton shared that his earliest memories involve the first of many dogs he has owned, Lassie. "I loved that dog for many reasons, chief among them the fact that when I was eight years old I could sit on the back step with him early in the morning before the sun came up and share my fears and my tears about my discovery that I was somehow different from other little boys I knew, and though I didn't know exactly what that meant I did know that something was terribly, terribly wrong," he said. "Well, I am here to tell you today that at a fundamental level I'm still the same little boy, though with a few years added on, along with lots of experiences in the interval, and absolutely nothing is wrong with me or you. Never was, but I had to learn that, and once I knew it was so personally, then I had to learn it was also so professionally."
Being out in the workplace has helped with the evolution of LGBT rights and has shaped much of his professional success and personal well being, noted Middleton. Middleton said that he didn't come out in the workplace initially, however, when he decided to move in with his partner John (they both were working in Colorado at the time) he decided to come out because he wanted to be himself in all environments and especially at work.
"Every job I have had since, all with increasing responsibility and authority, has included my being out and open all the time. Or at least not hiding, as I find that coming out at work isn't something that you do once and then that's that," said Middleton. "When you are out, and comfortable in your own skin, and reasonably successful, you acquire both opportunities and responsibilities to support others who are doing the work that remains to be done and who must assume the future mantles of leadership both in their professions specifically and more broadly in the society as a whole."
Due to his status as the first out LGBT president of a college or university in the United States, Middleton said he has had many people contact him for advice. Middleton said that being able to help others has given him an opportunity to live an engaged life both personally and in his career. "All of us can make a difference for having passed this way and for having been open in the workplace and in all else in this life, be it yours or mine," said Middleton.
Middleton explained that currently there are 44 members of the LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education organization including five new colleagues beginning this fall.
A Q&A session followed Middleton's remarks and an awards ceremony capped off the evening's festivities.
Leadership awards were given to Dr. James Lloyd (Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida) and Dr. Debbie Kochevar (Dean at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University). The Achievement award was given to Veterinary Technician Lyn Garson (she is the first vet tech LGVMA board member). Five people received the Presidential Service award; Drs. Wayne Hollingshead, Jennifer Thomas, Malcolm Kram, Mike Miller and Karen Hull. Dr. Ken Gorczyca, LGVMA co-founder, was presented with a plaque honoring his years of service with the organization.
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