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RCVS Day: a year of continuing improvement, an honour fit for a Lord and a vision of how vets can lead the way
13 July 2015
A year of ‘continuous improvement’ was promised by Dr Bradley Viner following his investiture as President of the College for 2015/16 at RCVS Day – our Annual General Meeting and Awards Day – held on Friday 10 July at the Institution of Civil Engineers in Westminster.
Dr Viner has been an elected member of RCVS Council since 2005 and was Treasurer from 2010 to 2014. During his time on Council he has served on a number of committees including both Education and Standards as well as chairing the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice Subcommittee and the, now obsolete, Planning and Resources Committee.
Graduating from the Royal Veterinary College in 1978, Bradley established a small animal practice in outer north-west London in 1979, which has now expanded to a group of five practices. He was also among one of the first veterinary surgeons in the UK to achieve a higher award in veterinary general practice upon obtaining an MSc (VetGP) with Middlesex University.
Bradley is well known for his media work, writing for publications such as The Veterinary Times and Your Cat as well as broadcasting, with regular stints as the ‘in-house’ vet for programmes such as The Big Breakfast, Blue Peter and This Morning.
He is also a Trustee of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Chair of its Building Committee as well as being Vice-President of International Cat Care.
In taking on the role of President, Bradley highlighted three areas that he considered crucial for his presidential year: the Vet Futures project and its final report (due in November); the new RCVS Fellowship; and, the new Practice Standards Scheme also due to launch in November.
He added: “If I had to pick a theme for my year it would be continual improvement. It is a very easy term to bandy about, but much more difficult to actually implement it efficiently.
"It involves accepting that there are many different ways we can tackle the challenges we face, and that we rarely do things perfectly. It is only by recognising our imperfections that we can get better, and it takes courage to open oneself up to criticism.
“I think back to my somewhat chequered school reports, which I had to sheepishly take home to my father, and the rather frequent comments that “Bradley could do better”. I think they meant it as criticism, but I would now take it as positive encouragement.
"The College is doing extremely well. It can continue to improve and become even better. During my year I undertake to do everything in my ability to ensure that it does.”
Upon receiving the chain of office from the outgoing President, Professor Stuart Reid, Bradley’s first official duty was to welcome the new Junior Vice-President, Chris Tufnell, saying that he was an ideal person to take on the role and praising his “calm but authoritative manner, and his passion for educational matters from the perspective of a practising vet.”
Bradley praised outgoing President Professor Stuart Reid as a “hard act to follow” – particularly in light of him running this year’s London Marathon to raise funds for mental health and animal welfare charities. Professor Reid then took up the position of Senior Vice-President, replacing Colonel Neil Smith.
AGM and changes to RCVS and VN Councils
The first part of RCVS Day involved the Annual General Meeting in which the new members of RCVS and VN Councils were welcomed.
After a formal introduction to the proceedings, members were asked for approval of the minutes of last year’s RCVS Day and the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for 2014.
The results of the RCVS Council elections 2015 were then read out and the four new members – Tim Greet, Joanna Dyer, Peter Robinson (who is returning after a short stint on Council in 2014) and Katherine Richards – invited to take up their seats. The re-elected Council members – Niall Connell and Lynne Hill – were also confirmed for four-year terms.
President Stuart Reid then went through a number of changes to the appointed members of Council:
- University of Glasgow appointee Professor Noreen Burrows has stepped down to be replaced by Douglas Hutchison. Professor Ewan Cameron has been reappointed for a further term of office.
- Professor David Argyle from the University of Edinburgh was reappointed for a further term of office.
- Professor Jo Price from the University of Bristol was reappointed for a further term of office.
- Professor Malcolm Bennett has left the University of Liverpool and his replacement on Council is awaited.
- Dr Karen Braithwaite and Professor Gary England from the University of Nottingham have been reappointed for further terms of office.
- Judith Webb, a Privy Council appointee, has resigned to take up a position on the Disciplinary Committee. Her replacement is awaited.
The President then went on to thank the retiring members of Council – Professor Sheila Crispin, Dr Bob Moore, Professor the Lord Trees and Mark Elliott – for their years of service.
For VN Council, newly elected veterinary nurse Lucy Bellwood was confirmed for her four-year term as was Liz Cox who also formally took up the role of Chair of VN Council, replacing Kathy Kissick. Kathy will now be a Vice-Chair of VN Council.
Other changes to VN Council included the retirement of Elizabeth Armitage-Chan, who reached the end of her four-year term, and the appointment of Peter Robinson as one of the RCVS Council-appointed veterinary surgeons.
Awards and honours
Following the AGM the outgoing President, Stuart Reid, conferred a range of awards including the Queen’s Medal and the VN Golden Jubilee Award.
RCVS Queen's Medal
The recipient of this year’s Queen’s Medal was Professor the Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, the first veterinary surgeon to be made a Life Peer of the House of Lords and a former president of both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Royal Society of Medicine.
Introducing him, Professor Reid said: “Lord Soulsby has had a truly exceptional career, which in several respects is unique in its achievements, not least bridging the worlds of medical and veterinary science.
“He has worked tirelessly to promote the importance of veterinary science to society and is admired not only for his intellect, hard work and breadth of interests, but also his endearing personality.”
He added: “His publications, research, international awards, fellowships, visiting professorships and prizes all testify to his global impact and reputation, but perhaps his greatest gift has been the stimulation and support he has given to hundreds of veterinary surgeons to aim for their highest goals.”
In accepting the award Lord Soulsby thanked Professor the Lord Trees for nominating him and paid tribute to his late wife Annette and all those colleagues and fellow veterinary surgeons who supported him throughout his career.
He added: “Looking back on my career, membership of the RCVS has carried me to many countries in the world and all the work I have enjoyed, and I hope that I have been able to progress veterinary medicine and ‘one health’ in all of those places.”
Three Honorary Associateships were bestowed during the occasion. The first was for Dr Michael Francis, a scientist who was praised for his “exceptional impact on the wellbeing of livestock and pets globally, through the vaccines he has developed against infectious diseases.”
The second Honorary Associateship was bestowed upon Catherine Phillips RVN, Head of the Department of Veterinary Nursing at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, who was recognised for her commitment to improving education and curriculum standards for veterinary nurses.
Phil Sketchley, who recently retired as Chief Executive of the National Office of Animal Health, was the third Honorary Associate in recognition of his contribution to the veterinary pharmaceuticals industry.
Fellowships and Diplomas
Three Honorary Fellowships were then bestowed upon Nick Henderson, Professor Donald Kelly and Alistair Lawrie.
The President praised Nick Henderson, who was until recently President of the Veterinary Marketing Association, for his work on encouraging the profession to engage with the public.
Professor Kelly was praised for being a leader in the field of veterinary pathology and for inspiring generations of trainee veterinary pathologists.
Mr Lawrie received the accolade in recognition of contribution to enhancing animal welfare in Scotland through his work as Director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as well as his expertise in avian and exotics medicine.
Two awards of Fellowship by Meritorious Contributions to Learning were made to Dr Cheryl Scudamore and Professor Kenneth Smith followed by the award of diplomas in Small Animal Surgery (Orthopaedics), Veterinary Cardiology, zoological medicine (avian) and zoological medicine (mammalian). In addition, some 39 veterinary nurses were presented with Diplomas in Advanced Veterinary Nursing (DipAVN).
VN Golden Jubilee Award
Finally, Dot Creighton received this year’s Veterinary Nursing Golden Jubilee Award, given in recognition of an exceptional contribution to the veterinary nursing profession.
Dot, a former member of VN Council and President of the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) for 2003-4, received the award for pioneering awareness-raising for the VN profession by creating the concept of VN Awareness Day during her presidential year.
This has now become VN Awareness Month, taking place every May, which many thousands of veterinary nurses take part in every year to help raise awareness of what the profession does and how vital they are to clinical practice and animal welfare.
Nick Stace, our Chief Executive Officer and Secretary, then gave his speech – an update on what we have achieved since the last RCVS Day.
He noted that, despite only being halfway through the time set aside for our Strategic Plan 2014-16, that it had met over half its objectives.
He cited, as particular highlights, the implementation of the new Royal Charter in February 2015, the launch of the Vet Futures project and the alternative dispute resolution trial last year and our success in the national Great Place to Work competition.
He added: “My hope for next year is that we will keep up the pace of reform, because it is only when we are in the driving seat of reform that we can genuinely implement change that is right and particular to our needs.”
He then handed over to the outgoing President Stuart Reid for his final address.
The President began his address by listing the many UK cities, as well as international destinations, he had been to during the course of his presidential duties and the fact that he had met, face-to-face, with at least five per cent of the profession.
He then went on to talk about the progress that had been made on the three priority issues that he had identified upon becoming President – to bring the UK in line with international practice by allowing UK veterinary surgeons to use the courtesy title ‘Dr/ Doctor’, which was passed by Council in March; reaching out to overseas practising vets who retain the postnominal ‘MRCVS’; and the reform of the governance of the College which is set to go to consultation this year.
He also cited a number of other ongoing initiatives such as the Vet Futures project, the Mind Matters mental health initiative and the relaunch of the Practice Standards Scheme.
“There is a lot done, and a lot still to be done. The challenges are out there, and if we do not lead we will only have ourselves to blame. We need to find a voice not where the profession requires representation, as that is the role of others, but where society and animals require informed comment on standards; that is absolutely our role, and it is a responsibility we must not shirk,” he said.
Before handing over the presidency to Bradley Viner he also praised the outgoing Senior Vice-President Colonel Neil Smith who could not be present as he was currently deployed in Sierra Leone with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, helping to run an Ebola Treatment Centre and a small Field Hospital as well as supporting the country’s government to prepare for any future outbreak.
This year’s guest speaker was Professor Will Hueston from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine and School of Public Health.
Professor Hueston delivered a talk entitled ‘Science, Politics and Beliefs: Can Veterinarians Change the World?’ in which he examined the profession’s past as well as its current challenges and future opportunities.
In particular he criticised the focus, not just in the UK but worldwide, on training veterinary surgeons solely for clinical, private practice and encouraged more members of the profession to take up ‘public good’ roles in areas such as disease prevention, food safety and policy.
“We risk becoming a profession of specialist physicians for pets and abdicating our responsibility for supporting public health and global food security,” he said.
He believed that the College could do more to support these non-clinical career paths, for example, by developing sets of competences which concentrate on ‘public good’ aspects of veterinary science and establishing Certificates in Advanced Veterinary Practice in areas such as policy and communication.