When you have a store front facility, visits from sales reps and the like are everyday occurrences. Some bits are welcome while others can be annoying. Some- times they have products you need and sometimes they don’t. More often than not these days they have products I need but can’t afford at the moment. The sales people do provide valuable information on the latest products, the occasional invitation to an interesting dinner meeting in addition to sometimes offering insight from another perspective.

Recently I received a sales call for a financial product. I listened to the gentleman’s pitch and explained I was happily enrolled with the financial product of his competitor. A bit more salesmanship and he let me know if I ever change my mind, he could facilitate the product change. Our conversation switched to the practice and general shop talk. In the process he mentioned, “Am very impressed and proud of you brother. You do know you are far and few between. Very unique.”

The sales person was African American and was commenting on the rarity of meeting a veterinarian of color. He explained he shares the sales territory with a colleague that stretches from Palm Beach County down to the Keys, practically all of South Florida. According to him, In the entire territory I was one of three African American veterinarians. As we finished our meeting, he congratulated me on my practice, again reminded me of my uniqueness. I was neither surprised nor inspired by his revelation. Being the only, if not one of a few is nothing new to me.

Except for my days at Tuskegee, I have always been the only, if not one of a few people of color in my journey to become and in being a veterinarian. I realized very early on in my career, that uniqueness was more of a strange dichotomy than a point of pride. Because of my “uniqueness,” I have been perceived to be less than in my professional qualifications and abilities by some and exceptional by others for the very same reason: being one of a few. What many describe as unique, is just my existence. The adage perception is reality, is true, but in this case, the perception which actually matters is mine.

The fact that I am a practitioner of color in a profession which is statistically 97 percent white does not account for my being unique. What makes me so is my character and ability, not my color. I take great pride and care in the way I treat my clients and patients: with fairness, dignity, compassion, and care, just because that is what everyone deserves. In my eyes, that is what makes me unique.

Dr. Bland is a practitioner in Oakland Park, Florida. He can be reached @ 954673-8579.