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The global profession, career diversity and innovation in focus at RCVS Day 2017

In his maiden speech as the new President of RCVS for 2017-2018, Professor Stephen May signalled his intent to help foster a nurturing learning culture within the veterinary profession that allows vets and veterinary nurses to learn from their mistakes and pursue a range of careers and goals.

Professor May was invested as President at RCVS Day 2017 – the College’s Annual General Meeting and awards ceremony – which took place at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Friday 7 July 2017. Stephen has been an elected member of RCVS Council since 2012, having previously been an appointed member of Council representing the Royal Veterinary College between 2001 and 2009. In 2016 he was re-elected to Council to serve a further four-year term and currently chairs the Legislation Working Party.

Addressing the need for a learning culture in his speech Stephen said: “Veterinary graduates have never had greater knowledge and technical skills than those graduating this year. But this can make their job so much harder when the certainty of scientific knowledge is confronted with the uncertainties of the sick animal, and the increasing number of possibilities for treatment have to be weighted alongside ethical and economic considerations.

“Of his age, but also prophetic of our age, the philosopher Bertrand Russell commented that ‘habits of thought cannot change as quickly as techniques with the result that as skill increases, wisdom fails’. So it is important that our young professionals are well-prepared in terms of professional, non-technical skills to cope with the sheer variety of challenges that they encounter, and we, as a profession, within our professional model, provide a nurturing learning culture rather than the blame and cover-up culture that the current emphasis on external regulation fosters, so pervasively and distressingly.”

Stephen added that his other priorities would be working with the British Veterinary Association and other stakeholders to uphold the College’s first Brexit principle that ‘vital veterinary work continues to get done’, a project on graduate outcomes, which flows from the Vet Futures project, and the Legislation Working Party.


AGM and changes to RCVS and VN Councils

RCVS Day 2017 started with the Annual General Meeting of the membership of the College in which new members of RCVS and VN Councils were welcomed and appointments to the Officer team confirmed. 

RCVS Registrar Eleanor Ferguson then read the results of the 2017 RCVS Council elections and the five new members of Council – Caroline Allen, Sarah Brown, Danny Chambers, Martin Peaty and Cheryl Scudamore – were invited to take up their seats and their four-year terms on Council. President Chris Tufnell, who had stood for re-election, was confirmed for a further four-year term.

For VN Council the newly elected member Susan Howarth was formally welcomed to her four-year term by Liz Cox, Chair of VN Council.

Liz also said farewell to retiring members Marie Rippingale, Peter Robinson and Neil Smith.

For the Officer team, Professor Stephen May was confirmed as President for 2017-18, Amanda Boag as Junior Vice-President, Chris Tufnell as Senior Vice-President and Christopher (Kit) Sturgess as Treasurer.


Awards and honours

Following the AGM was the awards ceremony which saw the introduction of the inaugural RCVS International Award.

This year the Queen’s Medal – the highest honour the College can bestow upon a veterinary surgeon – was presented to Dr Barry Johnson for his years of service to clinical practice, veterinary education and public service – including 28 years on RCVS Council and his position as High Sheriff of Lancashire from 2014 to 2015.

Upon being presented with the award Barry said that, having worked with many new graduates and younger members of the profession, he was very optimistic about the profession’s future.

Following the bestowal of the Queen’s Medal, VN Council Chair Liz Cox took to the stage to present the Golden Jubilee Award – which recognises those veterinary nurses taking a leadership role in the profession.

This year’s winner was Kathy Kissick, former Chair of VN Council and former Head of the School of Veterinary Nursing and Farriery at Myerscough College.

Upon receiving the award Kathy told the audience that veterinary surgeons should believe in their veterinary nurses, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and wear their RVN badges with pride. 

Next Chris presented the inaugural RCVS International Award to French veterinary surgeon Christophe Buhot, former President of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe.

In remarks made after receiving his award, Christophe thanked the President and the RCVS for the honour and stressed the need for veterinary professionals across Europe to work even more closely with one another in politically uncertain times.

Chris then went on to bestow two Honorary Associateships – an award for lay people who have made a significant contribution in the veterinary sphere. The first was made to Heather Armstrong from the Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust for her work on health and welfare for equids.

The second Honorary Associateship was awarded to Professor Duncan Maskell, the first non-vet Head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge and current Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Cambridge and Marks & Spencer Professor of Farm Animal Health, Food Science and Food Safety, for his contribution to pathogen research and animal-focused science.


Chief Executive’s address

Following the awards, Nick Stace, RCVS Chief Executive Officer and Secretary, gave his final address ahead of leaving the College at the end of September to take up a role at the Prince’s Trust. He gave an overview of his time at the College citing achievements such as the Vet and VN Futures projects and left three pieces of advice for the RCVS going forward. 

Nick also praised the Council members and the Presidents he has worked with as well as the RCVS staff without whom, he said, “all these projects and initiatives over the past five years would not have happened”. He then handed over to the outgoing President Chris Tufnell for his address.


President’s address 

In his address, Chris spoke about the enormous contribution veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses make to fostering and enhancing the bond between animals and humans.

“It is in this human-animal bond that we, as vets and vet nurses, play such a vital part. When we are called upon to support this bond, we form a trinity of vet, animal and owner. It is a privileged position and one that, as individual professionals, I know we all treasure. We are ‘allowed in’ to this special relationship to ensure its continuance and I believe that it is this responsibility that drives our sense of duty from day to day,” he said.


Guest speaker 

This year’s guest speaker was Ebony Escalona from Brooke: Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, an international welfare charity that works to improve the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people who depend on them.

Her talk, entitled ‘Jump outside the veterinary box: widening our horizon’, considered a number of issues including how veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses can contribute to One Health, combating career disillusionment through career diversification and innovation.


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