In the typical style of these blogs, I have finally found some time to think about it while sitting on the Eurostar on the way back from Brussels on an Autumn International (rugby) Saturday. I am due to arrive back in Cardiff just as the Wales vs. Australia game finishes… not ideal timing I suspect!
I am also writing a 20 minute presentation on “A career in veterinary politics” as requested by the excellent Medic Mentor team for one of their Insight into Veterinary Medicine Conferences for 14-15 year olds next Saturday. It is certainly interesting to take the opportunity to consider how I got here and my new role as President of the European Association of State Veterinary Officers (EASVO). I am not very sure what 14 to 15 year olds want to hear about as they embark, enthusiastically, on a pathway to a career in medicine (veterinary or otherwise) and, thinking back, I am absolutely sure that, at 14, I didn’t have any expectations to be here and, if I had, I might have been more diligent in my French O-Level. Yes – I am afraid that I am one of the last of the O-Level generation!
How does a career in State Veterinary Medicine develop?
I am sure it is different for everyone and, these days, Animal & Plant Health Agency and other veterinary colleagues in government are actively engaging with vet schools and providing extra mural studies (EMS) opportunities for veterinary students, which we hope will spark an early interest in our work. But, for me, it all started in 2001 during my time as a TVI (Temporary Veterinary Inspector) where I met, and was inspired by, many of my future colleagues. In a dramatically challenging and high profile situation, they demonstrated skills and expertise that delivered a disease outbreak response on an unprecedented scale. I had already been looking for a different approach in my career and, after a year as a TVI, I applied and was successful in joining the (then) State Veterinary Service in 2003.
But this blog is meant to be more about how I got into veterinary politics, definitely with a small “p”, and because I think that it is vital that government vets are represented in the key discussions affecting our profession, not least the EU Exit negotiations.
One route to representation is The Association of Government Veterinarians (AGV), a specialist Division of the British Veterinary Association (BVA). We provide input into responses to consultations and BVA activities by representing the views of all veterinarians working in UK Government. Towards the end of 2017 we also held our 4th joint conference with the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) themed ‘Embracing Innovation’ and covering developing, using and preparing for technology.
So how did I get involved in AGV? In 2006, I was working in the same office as the president of AGV at the time and asked if I would be interested in standing for membership of the council. I was! Very soon I was the Treasurer, organising one of our conferences, and next became Vice-President and then President. This was an exciting few years but, by the end of 2012, I was working in Defra as the Head of EU Relations for Animal Health and Welfare and travelling to Brussels so often that I stepped down from AGV council for a short period.
Not for long though… In 2015, as I moved back to APHA, AGV’s new President asked me if I would be willing to stand for council again, this time as our representative to EASVO. I jumped at the chance to maintain my links with Brussels and working within the wider Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) organisation . Over the last 2 years we have covered subjects ranging from the EU Animal Health and Official Controls Regulations to the welfare and wellbeing of animals and vets – you can see more details in my “back to office reports” .
The UK is an active member of the FVE including influencing the “Vet Futures” report and strategy and other initiatives. In November 2017, the FVE worked with the BVA and RCVS to issue a “Brexit negotiation plea” with the reminder that “FVE membership is wider than the EU, in total FVE has already members from 38 European countries, several of them outside the EU. Therefore, Brexit will make no difference for FVE. FVE will continue to collaborate with our UK members, namely the BVA and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) as before.”
And finally, I was recently nominated by UK representatives (AGV, the UK Chief Veterinary Officer, BVA and RCVS) to join the board of EASVO as President, and I am excited to report that I was successful and have now started my 2 year term. It is all a long way from the 14 year old who just wanted to be a vet and had no idea exactly where my career would take me.
If you are interested in finding out more about AGV, EASVO or FVE please follow the links in the article – and, if you work as a government vet anywhere in the UK, please remember that you are always welcome to join us in AGV.