Dr Christopher Little



Fellowship by Meritorious Contributions to Clinical Practice

Christopher Little

What tips do you have for putting your application together?

Gosh; I’m rather taken aback by this question since I have a natural fear of forms and of formal processes! The form itself is definitely daunting, but I was determined to press on. 

I was not entirely sure what would be useful or valid in the application process but I felt that I had some important experience and some novel skills that I hoped other people had also recognised. I first identified the people who I thought might be willing to support my application as referees. I asked them if they thought I should apply and they all gave favourable responses, then I wrote my personal statement emphasising the achievements I have made in my career and the different contributions I have made. 

Having been lucky enough to have worked in academia and in practice I felt these dual experiences had enriched my career. Any teacher who really wants to educate others will tell you that this drive to educate is a great spur to the teacher to deepen and broaden their own understanding of a subject. Whilst I was in academia I learnt to be a sceptic - to question everything. Since leaving academia I have become known amongst my peers in practice and in my specialist discipline (cardiology) as someone who feels bound to ask difficult questions of those in authority and those who have (or who claim) special knowledge or expertise. In this way I have got a great deal from CPD because I feel that I am usually an active participant in the CPD process. 

I have a PhD and an RCVS Diploma in Cardiology. I have also published a wide mix of clinical research and worked with a broad range of people in many different disciplines. Exposure to this catholic mixture of environments has enabled me to pick up an unusual portfolio of skills and contacts in the veterinary profession. This meant that when faced with the fellowship form I was able to find something tangible to say in reply to most of the different parts of the form.


What would you say to someone considering applying for the Fellowship? 

If you are a highly qualified senior clinician, or an aspiring leader, or have tangible and well documented experience which you feel ought to be recognised by the profession and the public, then you should have the courage of those convictions and make an application.


Why did you decide to apply for the new Fellowship?

I have always enjoyed education. I have striven over my career to continue to develop my skills, my knowledge and my interest in clinical veterinary medicine. I have a rather unusual career history, not typical in a specialist clinician, but I am proud of it.  

When I was still at school, very shy, I was fortunate enough to get experience “seeing practice” with a local practitioner, Cowan Wilson, who worked in a mixed practice in Cupar, near my home. He was a brilliant clinician with an RCVS Fellowship. He loved his job; his clients loved and respected him; and it was obvious that he revelled in the opportunity to tutor me. I adored him. I used to think, “One day, I want to be as good a vet as he is.” Sadly, Cowan is no longer alive. I hope he would be proud of me now. 


What does being a Fellow mean to you? 

I have only just become one. I await full knowledge... 


What hopes do you have for the Fellowship moving forward? 

Sometimes clinicians and practitioners feel isolated. There are “political” roles in the BVA and RCVS as well as the BSAVA and other organisations such as the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society, but for me veterinary politics is not something that interests me. I want to have new opportunities to meet other vets who continue to be fascinated by the rich diversity of veterinary science, people who are mature but mentally agile, who are driven by a love of enquiry and who are determined that evidence is far superior to dogma and opinion. I also think, we, as a profession need to strengthen our links will other scientists, biologists, medical doctors, physiologists, ethologists...

I hope that the Fellowship becomes a forum for enquiry, for vigorous debate, for the exchange of ideas and above all for the advocacy of the science (and art) of veterinary medicine.


What excites you about your future in the veterinary profession? 

New paradigms of cooperation.

Right now I have a small network of colleagues in veterinary cardiology with whom I am working to develop some novel approaches to clinical problems. I think the time has come for clinicians to participate fully in the science of veterinary medicine. This can come by applying rigorous scientific methods to simple problems; e.g. prospective studies of common clinical presenting signs. It can also come by applying new techniques and novel ideas to old / intractable problems.  

Universities must reach out to clinicians. Clinicians need to be bold and ask for help from the Universities, from each other, from statisticians, mathematicians, physicists and biologists. 

Cooperation between medicine and veterinary medicine ought to be widespread but it is not; this must change. Lip-service is being paid to the idea. Enough talk - more action!