May 1, 2023 | Toronto, Canada
This feature is part of our Asian Heritage Month series. Did you know the Government of Canada officially declared May as Asian Heritage Month in 2002? However, it has been celebrated across Canada since the 1990s. The country has a long tradition of showcasing the culture, art, and history of Asian Canadians. The theme for 2023 is “Stories of Determination.” This year, we’re happy to take part by introducing some of our teammates that belong to this diverse community.
Meet Carissa Tsui, Practice Manager
When Carissa first heard about this series, she thought it was a wonderful opportunity to represent her community and its ongoing struggles.
“I truly appreciate this recognition. In recent years especially with COVID there has been quite a bit of Asian hate,” she explained. “When the pandemic first started here in Canada, I felt that. People were looking at me and they would randomly say things like Go back to your home. It’s important we recognize not only anti-Asian racism but discrimination in all forms against all groups.”
Despite these hurdles, Carissa maintains a bright outlook. Her culture and international experience have long-lasting positive effects on her professional life, in particular. Carissa joined the team at Wellesley Animal Hospital (Toronto, ON) in 2018. She started with a joint role as a Veterinary Assistant and Customer Service Representative before moving on to her current position as Practice Manager.
Finding the perfect fit
Her advice for others looking to break into the industry is to get as much experience as possible. Let your supervisors know about your interest in doing so – especially if, like her, you are uncertain about what role you want to take on. “Get in the field first. That’s how you will learn the most. No matter how much you read, you won’t know what you’re getting into unless you get first-hand experience,” Carissa explained. “Wellesley helped open my eye to different possibilities. They helped me recognize my interest in management. That was never on my radar.”
Connecting with a diverse clientele
Carissa graduated from the University of Toronto with a double major in Animal Physiology & Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is from Hong Kong and spent the first few years of her career working in veterinary clinics there. Having international experience helped her adapt to her current work environment. It also provides her with a meaningful connection to her team’s multilingual clients. Carissa speaks Cantonese and Mandarin. In total, the Wellesley team communicates with clients in over nine languages in addition to English. Owners are always happy to speak about their pet’s situation in their native tongue.
“The first reaction is always relief. They were concerned about not getting to the point because they didn’t know the terminology in English,” Carissa said. “If English is not their first language, they will not disclose all the information. For example, if they are asked if the pet has vomited, they might say no because they do not understand the question. But when the doctor or I go in speaking their language, we can get more accurate details.”
When new clients contact them, they will ask if they have a preferred language and match them to a team member that can speak that language. It is an added step that prolongs the intake process in the beginning, but ultimately enhances the experience for the pet owners. Providing a first-language service helps build trust. It also helps boost client education and cooperation with healthcare recommendations.
“It drives home the value of our services,” Carissa said. “Speaking in their language gives us a chance to promote what we really want clients to know. It increases the compliance rate to things like dental cleaning, parasite prevention, and regular fecal testing. If you don’t understand the back end of things, then you would not understand why we are suggesting them. By speaking their native language, they can build that connection and they can freely ask questions without thinking too much about how to phrase it.”
Being a voice for pet owners in her community brought forward an added layer of purpose to Carissa’s work. She learns something new each day (especially when translating for their veterinarians) and looks forward to growing even more in her profession.
“I grew up loving animals. I always knew I wanted to be in the veterinary field,” she said.
VetStrategy is committed to supporting diversity in the veterinary field through our new bursary for Canadian veterinary students. Click here to learn more.