AMR, widening participation, sustainability and behaviourism take centre stage at RCVS Fellowship Day 2023

On Monday 27 November, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) welcomed new Fellows and Fellowship Board members at its annual Fellowship Day, with topics including antimicrobial resistance (AMR), widening participation, sustainability and behaviourism taking centre stage.

The event, which took place at One Great George Street in London, saw 34 new Fellows admitted to the Fellowship as well as the official instatement of Dr Niall Connell FRCVS as the new Vice Chair of the Fellowship Board.

Two Chairs of the Credentials Panels, who are responsible for reviewing applications to join the Fellowship and making recommendations on applications to the Fellowship Board, were also officially instated. Professor Richard Piercy FRCVS was instated as Chair of the Credentials Panel for Contributions to Knowledge, and Andrew Robinson FRCVS was re-instated as Chair of the Credentials Panel for Contributions to the Profession. There are three Credentials Panels in total, to reflect the three different entry routes into the Fellowship, the third of which is through contributions to Clinical Practice.

The day began with a short opening speech from Dr Chris Tufnell, who formally welcomed the new panel members, before moving onto the ‘Fellows of the Future?’ student competition, chaired by Dr Niall Connell. The competition, which was established to encourage students and graduates currently involved in research to share their work, had a record number of entries. In total, there were 38 student entrants, with the top three entrants being selected to present their work at Fellowship Day.

Top entrants this year were:

  • Albert Cliffe from the University of Cambridge, who presented his work on ‘Detection of avian influenza virus in wild birds to determine prevalence, subtype and fitness cost of infection’;
  • Daisy Cookson from the University of Liverpool, who presented her project on ‘The biological response of canine cruciate ligamentocytes following treatment with synovial fluid extracellular vesicles’; and
  • Ellie Miller from the University of Nottingham who spoke about her work into the ‘Recognition of pain in calves and decision around treatment among farmers in the UK’.

Each student had five minutes to present their research and a further two minutes to answer questions from the judging panel. Later in the day, after deliberation from the judges, the winner was announced as Ellie Miller, who received a £200 National Book Token, with Albert and Daisy’s presentations being judged as ‘highly commended’. Albert and Daisy also each received a National Book Token for £100.

In addition to the ‘Fellows of the Future?’ student competition, there were two breakout panel discussions. One on ‘Net Zero Surgery’, chaired by RCVS President Dr Sue Paterson FRCVS, which included talks from Eleanor West FRCVS and Zoë Halfacree FRCVS from Vet Sustain, a collaboration of veterinary associations and organisations that aims to help vet teams become more sustainable in their practice and profession. The other was ‘An update: Animal Behaviourism – is it an act of veterinary care?’, chaired by Professor Anna Meredith FRCVS, current Chair of the Fellowship Science Advisory Panel, with talks from Sarah Heath FRCVS, a Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine, Chris Laurance FRCVS, a trustee of the Animal Behaviour & Training Council and Ben Myring, RCVS Policy & Public Affairs Manager.

The keynote speech was delivered by Professor Dame Sally Davies, the current UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and former Chief Medical Officer for England, whose talk entitled ‘One Health, One High-Level Meeting: the global movement on AMR’, explored AMR from a One Health perspective. Dame Sally started her talk by praising the veterinary professions for being ahead of the curve in terms of antimicrobial stewardship. Other key points included the impacts of AMR not only on human and animal health, but also on food chains, water supplies, poverty and global development, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She emphasised the fact that AMR is a global issue which requires a global response and that more work is needed to ensure that tackling it is a priority.

RCVS President, Dr Sue Paterson, who became a Fellow in 2017, also gave an address. As part of her speech, she stated: “RCVS Council agreed in 2018 that the fellowship should have three specific aims: to work to promote scientific excellence, to harness the expertise of the fellows to further professional skills and practice and to invigorate a curiosity for innovation and its uses and, to undertake activities that enriches public discourse about the importance of veterinary science to everyone. 

“It is that third ambition that I have personally been particularly keen to promote this year especially as it aligns with my presidential theme of widening participation. 

 “As a Royal College, we consider ourselves to be a compassionate, supportive regulator and we work hard to ensure that our professions are welcoming to all veterinary surgeons and nurses regardless of their ethnicity, socioeconomic background or gender. 

 “We recognise that as we become a more diverse and inclusive profession, we become stronger, allowing everyone to flourish and be themselves both professionally and personally.

 “The routes to fellowship also, I hope, make it an inclusive and diverse learned society and I am delighted that we are now starting to harness the diversity within the fellowship to demonstrate the different backgrounds of our fellows and the breadth of career pathways available to graduates with a veterinary science degree.”

Closing the day, Dr Chris Tufnell thanked all those involved in organising the event and spoke about how the Fellowship can be a vehicle for celebrating vets and veterinary science to a greater audience. Like Sue, he also spoke about the importance of widening participation and the importance of diversity within both the Fellowship and the wider profession in creating a thriving workforce. He noted that he was proud to be a GP vet, the first to head up the Fellowship, and that he hoped this would show others that the learned society is open to everyone, whether that be academics, specialists, or generalists.

Videos from Fellowship Day 2023, including speeches from the day, will soon be available to view on our website. ‘Fellows of the Future?’ student competition submissions are also available to view on the ‘Fellows of the Future?’ page.

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