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Royal College Day 2022: Address from Melissa Donald, incoming RCVS President for 2022-23

I have sat in the seats in front of me for the past six years (ok, two of them have been in my own home, but virtually sitting in those seats!) and have been a very proud member of this profession for 35 years next Monday, always voting in the annual RCVS Council elections, never realising one day that I would be standing up here.

Kate’s theme this last year of ‘connections that count’ is so essential within our small but mighty profession.

Melissa Donald giving her inaugural address as RCVS President for 2022-23 at Royal College Day 2022 When I looked this up in June, there were over 300,000 doctors registered with the General Medical Council. We, the veterinary profession, have around 30,000 registered with the RCVS to look after farmed, pet, lab animal, exotic, zoo and wildlife species. In other words, all animals EXCEPT the human and we protect humans too with public health work!

Even excluding farmed fish, over 300 million animals are being cared for by 30,000 professional veterinary surgeons and their teams. That is the scale of our small but mighty community.

Being part of a community doesn’t mean we all have to be clones of each other, but a group that can agree to disagree, and is there for each other in times of need.

We are part of many different community circles: family, school, online, college, work and hobbies to name a few, and many interconnect with each other just like a massive Venn diagram.

Some people wish to keep the circles separate, but to me they are all intrinsically connected and we are the sum of each part of our lives, that is what makes us who we are.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we have to be everything to everyone 24/7, as ‘me time’ is precious, and finding that space to breathe is what helps us feel grounded.

With this close proximity to each other, communication is key. My mother has offered me many wise words over the years, most frequently being ‘engage brain before opening mouth’ but just as important as speaking is listening and actually hearing what is being said.

So, over this year I will try to get out and about as much as possible, focus on hearing what our community is saying and engage in many conversations as we work together. After all, I am the ‘nomadic’ president, of no fixed abode, at least until we all get to move into the new headquarters in Hardwick Street!

Behind every President, there are teams of people who have skilfully managed the figurehead over the years, from our parents (without them I definitely wouldn’t be here!) and family, to school teachers, work experience facilitators, university and EMS mentors, friends, to work and RCVS colleagues. There are representatives of many of these teams sitting here or virtually at home. 

To have had this support is an immense privilege and growing up I took it for granted. But now it is time to give back. I love seeing the careers develop of the school children who came to our practice for work experience, and it is all our responsibility to make becoming part of the veterinary team accessible to all.

Throughout my career, there have been moments where I looked at alternative options, it was once so bad I even looked at accountancy (sorry to any accountants out there!) but there was never anything that persuaded me to change and I can honestly say I’m so glad I have been a vet over this era.

But now, what I really want to be part of, is strengthening the profession so that today’s new graduates can stand here in 30 plus years and say the same. This is what being on RCVS Council is about for me.

So, at the start of this very special year, I’d just like to thank you all very much for supporting me, especially Kenny, my husband, who has been through all the highs and lows over the years and kept me together when I have crashed, kept me laughing at myself, celebrated the successes and been my rock.

Finally, just as with everything I have done throughout my life, I will put my all into this role and try not to let any of you down.

Thank you. 

July 2022