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RCVS Day 2021 speeches: incoming RCVS President Kate Richards

Kate Richards speaking at the RCVS AGM on 9 July 2021 Good morning,

Today is a huge privilege. The tenth female President since the RCVS was established in 1844 and having the honour of leading the first all-female presidential team.

I am the sum and product of my connections and stand here as a result of the support of many people. I am but the tip of an iceberg. My parents, brother Jonathan and sister Sue, I thank you for putting up with frogspawn, stick insects, fish and terrapins for many years.

I studied in Edinburgh and am grateful for the support I received and the many life long friends I made there as well as during my time as a general practitioner, as an Official Veterinarian, as a vet in the pharmaceutical industry and a vet in government.

However I have had moments of anxiety these past few weeks. Why? I was worried about being lonely which is something I experienced early in my career. Arriving at a farm to calve a heifer, test the herd for brucellosis or lamb a ewe, I’d paste on a smile for my client and focus on the job in hand.

Working in a rural community 200 miles away from family and friends, I was both geographically distanced as well as disconnected by my on-call rota and emotionally isolated from those around me who couldn’t relate to my experience. As I drove round the countryside I kept thinking over and over, I had a job, a flat and a car - what was wrong with me? I felt I was in a parallel universe and just didn’t belong.

What I’ve learned is that Connections Count, the value and benefit of connections on personal, professional and societal levels. But that’s not rocket science I hear the back row muttering. But as happens so often in life it’s the simple things that add most value.

The Covid pandemic has demonstrated the value of connections for our mental health and wellbeing. Social distancing has spotlighted in fluorescent pinks, blues and greens the need for social connections. When hungry we eat, thirsty we drink, when we feel lonely we need to connect.

And that starts with connecting with ourselves, nurturing our minds and bodies, building our sense of self and resilience. I am passionate about initiatives including MMI and VetLife that support our professions.

Connections within the professions have been fundamental to my career, providing opportunities to collaborate, extend my knowledge and forge support networks. I look forward to building stronger connections with vets in the UK and abroad, including the FVE. I’m so excited about the energy, new connections and networks springing up in the profession. 

I’ve worked in non-veterinary roles where I’ve had the opportunity to make new connections and share knowledge across professional disciplines.

Pre-pandemic I attended a seminar on domestic violence. Speakers from social services said how hard it was to identify victims of domestic violence who were too scared to report. I informed the room about the Links Group which works hard to raise awareness of the connection between the abuse of animals and people. Sadly there are still silos, disconnections between well meaning professionals. That proves to me the critical role of vets in human health and welfare by reporting animals they suspect of non-accidental injury. I look forward to progressing some exciting initiatives on this with the Royal Society of Medicine.

I work with Moredun and the Scottish Agricultural College. Last year these two organisations collaborated with NHS Lothian to develop a coronavirus testing facility which was a finalist in the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards. Another example of the beauty of connections between animal and human health.

I mentor vets, sharing my diverse experiences and am a STEM ambassador to children interested in science and veterinary medicine. Reaching out offers support and guidance which can change lives. Acts of service, like volunteering, build our sense of self and belonging. It’s so simple, but oh so powerful. 

I promise to do my best as president, to be the custodian for this wonderful profession. I won’t be perfect and there will be times when people disagree with the RCVS. I welcome dialogue that’s respectful, courteous and constructive.

I am excited about my presidential year, thankful for my connections, my iceberg of support. I’m thankful for the wise counsel of past presidents especially Mandisa and Niall Connell. My priority is to encourage Connections which Count, making sure we look after ourselves so that we can build vibrant purposeful and powerful connections across ours and allied professions for the good of animal and human health and welfare, for our communities, society and the environment.

My aim this year? To amplify and extend the reach of the veterinary voice.

Thank you.

July 2021