Fiona McFarland elected NIVA and BVA Northern Ireland Branch President - Veterinary Practice
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Fiona McFarland elected NIVA and BVA Northern Ireland Branch President

A new joint president, Fiona McFarland, has been elected for the Northern Ireland BVA branch and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association

The Northern Ireland Branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) have jointly elected Fiona McFarland as their new President.

Fiona McFarland is the account manager for Ireland North with IMV Imaging, where she provides advice, education, training and resources in diagnostic imaging to veterinary clinics and customers in the agricultural industry. Fiona has been an active council member of NIVA since 2014 including holding the role of press officer, has sat on BVA’s Members Services group and BVA Policy Committee and is a past President of the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS).

During a joint annual general meeting, which was held virtually on 9 February 2022, Fiona succeeded Mark Little as president of the BVA Northern Ireland (NI) Branch and was also elected as the incoming 2022 President for NIVA. Mark will now move into the role of senior vice president of BVA’s NI Branch.

On becoming President, Fiona McFarland said: “It’s an absolute pleasure and honour to accept the joint position of President of NIVA and BVA NI Branch. I’ve been involved with both organisations for some years and am very grateful to have been able to learn from those who have been in this position in the past. I’ve benefited from both organisations throughout my career and it’s a privilege to be able to give something back to our members and the profession.

“My main aim for the year ahead is to steer our associations into the new normal we are faced with while continuing to navigate the pandemic. Accompanied by the effects of Brexit, Northern Ireland faces some difficult challenges, not only within the profession itself, but within the agri-food industry.

“My theme for the year will be sustainability: both that of the profession and workforce, but also how vets play a pivotal role in sustainable agriculture.”

Fiona also plans to concentrate on high priority areas including the supply of veterinary medicines into Northern Ireland, the changes to the legislation for the prescription of drugs to cross-border clients, the ongoing review into the plans for a new veterinary school in Northern Ireland and the continued control of disease such as bovine TB and BVD.

Fiona added: “I am focused on continuing to provide support to all our members and ensure we keep all channels of communication active and effective within our profession, but most importantly within NIVA, BVA, government, industry and the farming community. We need to continue to stand together as one voice and look at the wider implications of everything we do as veterinarians. I aim to help shape changes in policy, build relationships and continue to have open conversations with each and every stakeholder wherever possible.”

BVA President Justine Shotton congratulated Fiona and said: “It is such a pleasure to welcome Fiona McFarland into the role of President of both the BVA NI Branch and NIVA. Her years of experience within the veterinary profession and strong desire to make a difference make her an invaluable spokesperson for BVA and a real asset to the BVA team.

“It is vital that the veterinary profession has strong representatives in BVA’s branches and the NI branch will be essential in navigating potentially tricky months to come in the wake of Brexit and the pandemic. We look forward to working with her and know she will be able to build successfully on work from the last few years.”

Fiona grew up on a sheep farm in County Antrim and has 18 years of experience in clinical practice since graduating from Bristol Veterinary School in 2004. She initially worked in mixed practice in South West England, then moved back to Northern Ireland in 2010. She continued to work in farm practice and moved into the small animal sector in 2012. She worked in first opinion and referral practice and managed an independent practice before spending nearly five years working as a full-time small animal locum vet, providing ongoing regular cover for over 45 practices in Northern Ireland. Fiona was also one of the leading founders of the NI Young Vet Network and helped set up the Vet Support initiative, which offers mental health and well-being support to all colleagues, throughout Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland.

Fiona McFarland will be joined on the BVA Northern Ireland branch team by succeeding Junior Vice President and fellow NIVA council member, Esther Skelly-Smith.

Esther graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2012, before interning at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. In 2017, she established Shanaghan Veterinary Services which is Ireland’s first equine integrated veterinary referral service. 

She is very active in representation and currently holds many roles notably as BVA NI Regional representative, equine expert on the College Advisory Group for the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRA), member of the DAERA Interim Equine Forum, and Ulster Farmers Union Next Generation Development Forum member. She is also an Honorary Lecturer with Queen’s University Belfast working with students during their research placement and lecturing on equine welfare.

As part of the network of devolved and specialist divisions, BVA Branches contribute local knowledge and expertise to BVA’s wider lobbying and representational activities.

For more information about BVA Northern Ireland Branch, please visit their website.

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