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RCVS Day: a call to be proud of the profession, accolades for vets and VNs and how the profession can harness technology

20 July 2016

In his maiden speech as our new President for 2016 – 2017, Dr Chris Tufnell called upon veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to be proud of themselves as people who are committed to the welfare of animals in their care and to not be so hard on themselves.

Chris Tufnell at RCVS Day 2016Chris (pictured right) was invested as President at RCVS Day 2016 – our Annual General Meeting and awards ceremony – which took place at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Friday 15 July 2016. Chris has been an elected member of Council since 2009 and, during this time, has served on the Education Committee, the Examinations Appeal Committee and the Operational Board as Chair of the Education Committee and Junior Vice-President.

Chris graduated with a veterinary degree from the University of Glasgow at the relatively advanced age of 30 having first attained a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Science from the University of Newcastle. Following graduation he worked in a mixed practice in Herefordshire before purchasing an equine and companion animal practice in West Berkshire, which currently employs five veterinary surgeons and five support staff.

In his speech, Chris outlined several areas that he would like to prioritise during his presidential year. These included delivering the priorities set out in the Vet Futures Action Plan, exploring bringing veterinary paraprofessionals into the College’s regulatory remit, driving forward the College’s international profile and dealing with blame and fear culture in the profession.

He said: “I’ve seen first-hand in Africa and India what the delivery of veterinary care can do for the welfare of animals in these regions and the wellbeing of people that frequently depend upon them. As one of the richest nations in the world we will further investigate what we can do, through knowledge transfer and support, to help raise the standards of veterinary care in developing countries.

“Sadly we often hear that there are vets and nurses who live in fear of the RCVS. This is something of which I am personally ashamed. Being particularly mindful of the role that fear and anxiety play in mental health, I will do everything I can to replace this fear... I will encourage all hardworking vets and nurses, whichever field they are in, to wear their [MRCVS] ‘badge’ with pride. Feel good about what you do, feel great about what you do.”

Chris’ first official duty upon receiving the presidential chain of office from outgoing President Dr Bradley Viner, was to welcome the new Junior Vice-President Professor Stephen May. He also praised Bradley for his calm authority, humour and wisdom throughout his year as RCVS President.

AGM and changes to RCVS and VN Councils
The first part of RCVS Day was the Annual General Meeting in which new members of RCVS and VN Councils were welcomed and appointments to the Officer team ratified.

After an introduction to the proceedings by then President Bradley Viner, members were asked for their approval of the minutes of last year’s AGM and the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for 2015.

Melissa Donald with Bradley VinerThe results of the RCVS Council elections 2016 were then read out and the two new members of Council – Melissa Donald and Lucie Goodwin – invited to take up their seats and their four-year terms on Council. The re-elected members, Christopher Barker, Amanda Boag, Kit Sturgess and Stephen May, were also confirmed for their four-year terms.

President Bradley Viner then went through a number of changes to the appointed members of Council:

  • Professor Jo Price has retired from her position as the University of Bristol appointee and been replaced by Professor Richard Hammond.
  • Professor Mike Herrtage and Professor James Wood have been reappointed by the University of Cambridge for further terms of office.
  • Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Education Committee, and Dr Kieron Salmon were reappointed by the University of Liverpool for further terms of office.
  • For the Royal Veterinary College, Professor Stuart Reid has been reappointed for a further term of office.
  • Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens has been appointed by the Privy Council for a further term.

The President then thanked retiring Council members Dr Barry Johnson, Professor Jo Price and Dr Richard Stephenson noting that Dr Johnson was one of RCVS Council’s longest-serving members having attended 112 of its meetings.

Matthew Rendle with Liz CoxFor VN Council the newly elected members Racheal Marshall and Matthew Rendle (pictured with Liz Cox) were formally welcomed to their four-year terms by Liz Cox, Chair of VN Council.

Liz also said farewell to retiring members Lizzie Figg, Kathy Kissick and Penny Swindlehurst. She paid particular tribute to Kathy, her predecessor as VN Council Chair, and highlighted her achievements during her three years in the role, including helping the College attain the new Royal Charter recognising veterinary nurses as regulated professionals and being the first VN to sit on the RCVS Operational Board.

For the Officer team Chris Tufnell was confirmed as President, Stephen May as Junior Vice-President, Bradley Viner as Senior Vice-President and Amanda Boag as Treasurer.

Awards and honours
Following the AGM, the outgoing President Bradley Viner conferred a range of awards, including the Queen’s Medal – the highest award that can be bestowed by the RCVS upon a veterinary surgeon.

This year the Queen’s Medal was given to Professor Randolph Richards, a distinguished fish vet and aquaculturist whose expertise has been invaluable in the development of the salmon farming industry in Scotland.

Liz Cox with Louise O'DwyerReading the citation for Professor Richards (pictured), Bradley said he was: “A long-time advocate of animal welfare, particularly the often-neglected fish, Randolph’s commitment to research and influencing policy has made him one of the most highly respected veterinarians in the profession.”

He added: “In 2008, Randolph was recognised with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire award for his service to veterinary science, particularly the major role he played in the development of the Institute of Aquaculture [at the University of Stirling] and the emerging aquaculture industry in Scotland.

"From 1989 he served as veterinary advisor to a succession of key industry associations, including the Scottish Salmon Growers Association, Scottish Quality Salmon, and the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation. His work has not only enhanced the welfare of the fish that form ‘the meat’ of the industry, but contributed significantly to Scotland’s economy by helping to change the landscape of the entire Scottish salmon farming industry.”

After the Queen’s Medal was bestowed, Liz Cox took to the stage to present the Golden Jubilee Award – which recognises those veterinary nurses taking a leadership role in the profession – to Louise O’Dwyer.

Liz Cox with Louise O'DwyerIn her citation, Liz (pictured with Louise) said: “Louise has shown time and time again what it means to be an advocate, a researcher and a volunteer; in short, what it is to be a veterinary nurse. She has published on a global scale, engaged with boards across both the UK and USA, fought to reduce antimicrobial resistance and, as her nominator said, ‘acted as mentor, manager and friend to veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, animal care assistants and receptionists’ alike.

“This award is the highest honour that we can confer on a veterinary nurse and was relaunched recently to focus on leadership and ambassadorial influence. We cannot think of any veterinary nurse who more seamlessly unites these qualities.”

Bradley then went on to bestow a number of other awards, including an Honorary Associateship to Professor David Lane from the Professional Development Foundation for his contribution to the profession through his support of the launch of the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice and the status of Advanced Practitioner in Veterinary Primary Care.

Honorary Fellowships were bestowed upon Professor Martin Hugh-Jones for his contribution to veterinary epidemiology and Dr Ian Wright for contribution to equine surgery. Bradley noted that, because of the relaunched Fellowship, these would be the last Honorary Fellowships given by the College.

Bradley also encouraged guests to make nominations for next year’s Queen’s Medal, Golden Jubilee Award and Honorary Associateship, adding that the deadline was Friday 16 September 2016. 

Following the honours, an award of Fellowship by Meritorious Contributions to Learning was made to Professor Michael Reichel, who was unable to attend RCVS Day but had been presented with his Fellowship earlier in July. This was followed by the awarding of diplomas in Animal Welfare, Science, Ethics and Law; Cattle Health and Production; and, Small Animal Surgery (Orthopaedics). Diplomas in Advanced Veterinary Nursing were then presented to 24 veterinary nurses.

Chief Executive’s address
Nick Stace at RCVS Day 2016Nick Stace (pictured), our Chief Executive Officer and Secretary, then gave a speech in which he said that the College would react to both the issues and the opportunities raised by ‘Brexit’ through a new taskforce.

He said: “We have pledged ourselves to helping support a successful outcome to Brexit, to the new Prime Minister, Secretary of State and to the Cabinet Office unit responsible for EU exit negotiations.

“We have done so because Brexit matters to the veterinary professions, as 27 per cent of our registrants are from the EU, half of all new registrants each year are from the EU, most vets involved in public health are from the EU, and much of the regulations that govern our daily lives are from the EU.

“Under soon-to-be President Chris Tufnell we have established a Presidential Taskforce to help us do everything we can to ensure the best interests of the veterinary professions, the public and animal health and welfare are served.”

In addition to Brexit, Nick added that the digital technology and innovation was an area on which both the profession and the RCVS as regulator needed to get a better hold. He also touched on the fact that the RCVS needed to help tackle the ‘culture of fear’ in the profession that stems from the unrealistic demands placed on medical and caring professionals that they will get everything right 100 per cent of the time.

He then handed over to the outgoing President Bradley Viner for his address.

President’s address
Bradley Viner at RCVS Day 2016In his address, Bradley (pictured) highlighted the many achievements of his year in office, including the launch of the new Fellowship, which led to dozens of applications from prospective Fellows, the relaunch of the Practice Standards Scheme in November 2015 and the ongoing Vet and VN Futures projects, which culminated in the publication of the Vet Futures Action Plan and VN Futures Report earlier in July.

“Vet Futures, the Regional Question Time events and many other engagements have brought me into contact with a significant proportion of the profession during the year. I’ve been attending some such meetings as an RCVS Officer since I became Treasurer six years ago, and I have to say that the attitude of those attending the meetings has become noticeably more positive with time.

“I do feel that the RCVS is increasingly being recognised as the ‘force for good’ that I believe it is. Whilst we occasionally have to wield the stick of the disciplinary process, it is the Code of Professional Conduct that makes us the honourable and respected profession that we are, but we have many more carrots in our bag, aimed at encouraging good practice and advancing the standards of veterinary care,” he said.

Before handing over to the guest speaker Bradley thanked his family, fellow Council members and RCVS staff for supporting him during his year as President.

Guest speaker
Adam Little at RCVS Day 2016This year’s guest speaker was Canada-based veterinary surgeon Dr Adam Little DVM (pictured), who runs a consultancy called the Exponential Vet which helps the veterinary profession harness disruptive digital technologies for the benefit of clients, patients and their businesses.

The overall theme of Adam’s talk was on how the profession can prepare itself for the changes it faces and embrace new technology – rather than being left behind.

For example, he cited how the rise in wearable technology gathering health data could be a vital diagnostic tool for veterinary surgeons and how the increasing use of 3D printers is driving innovation forward – even allowing one dog in the United States to receive a new pair of prosthetic front legs.

He said: “As technology is changing different areas of our life the reality is that we like the benefits of those but we don’t want it to change our doing a great job. The veterinary profession has the opportunity to use these tools and provide care that is far more accurate and far more accessible.”

In concluding his speech he made a number of recommendations including using regulation as a mechanism to encourage technological innovation, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset amongst the profession and creating a network of practices that are ‘early-adopters’ of new technology.

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