As my year in office draws to a close, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the year’s highlights and give a few helpful hints to my friend and colleague Dave Rendle, our incoming president. I am confident Dave will catapult BEVA into a higher place via his incredible drive and determination – a true workhorse.
The 2021/22 BEVA presidency certainly started with a bang. I arrived at the BEVA Congress very wet behind the ears and full of enthusiasm. Lucy was still in charge, and I was very comfortable being her junior; however, by the end of the annual general meeting I was the president. Tim and Lucy’s joint congress followed in the shadow of COVID-19, and suddenly there were three of us “in charge”. Thankfully, we had all worked together as part of the presidential tree, and it was as seamless as always. I would like to thank Tim and Lucy for being so adaptable during such an unpredictable time.
Congress was a definite highlight – the first post-COVID in-person veterinary conference organised by vets for vets with the support of a small team of amazing individuals at the BEVA office. With only three weeks to organise thanks to the dreaded “C” word, it was all hands on deck and lots of antacids! But it was worth it because all those present at congress were delighted to finally meet one another once again – organisers, delegates and exhibitors alike. The event was a huge success, and it is my aim to have a normal “pre-pandemic” congress next month – expect all the bells and whistles!
Normally, the new president would ask the previous president for advice on all matters at the start of their year; however, my experience was different. Lucy had experienced an almost complete washout of in-person attendance, instead having to make do with virtual interactions. As such, I needed to crack on and start attending events in my presidential role somewhat “blind” to how things normally worked.
We discussed all things equine and quickly found that recruitment and retention was the number one global concern – this set the stall for my year
The first highlight of my presidency was the International Equine Presidents’ meeting. BEVA hosts this gathering, and I was truly humbled to be chairing such esteemed individuals who held us (BEVA) in such high regard. Only then did the penny really drop as to the gravitas of who I was representing. We discussed all things equine and quickly found that recruitment and retention was the number one global concern – this set the stall for my year. As well as championing the equine vet, I needed to investigate and find solutions to this problem.
The next highlight was the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention. BEVA is most fortunate to have such a close affiliation with AAEP, and this is concreted by the CEOs – both in name and in their genuine affection for one another. The Davids (Mountford and Frisbe) could not be a better team. Another great feature of the conference in Nashville was being able to take Lucy as my “work spouse”. Having been unable to travel to any major events during her presidential term, it was a privilege to invite Lucy to join me. The American hospitality was faultless, and old relations were renewed while new ones were created. It also reminded me how small and kind the equine vet world is. The climax of the conference’s social programme was Chris Hanson, a decorated country music singer who performed exclusively for AAEP. My immediate quandary was, “How can AAEP afford to pay for such a star?” The answer came as soon as Chris arrived on stage – he announced this gig was FOC as one of the reps from a company had helped him during a darker period in his life, so this was his way of saying “thank you” – just awesome.
The next event was the tragic invasion of Ukraine. Four years ago, I visited Kyiv as part of BEVA Trust’s volunteer lecture programme, where Victoria South, Suzy Hall and I lectured delegates from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia for three days. The most incredible man (Anatoly), who is well into his seventies, was the powerhouse behind this conference. We became friends, and it was harrowing to message him and fully understand the devastation they were facing. BEVA’s response was incredible, with Dave Rendle working in association with Till Hollerman and fellow council member Kate Blakeman (to mention only two of a very large team of volunteers). Words turned into actions, and real help was achieved – a very proud moment for the organisation.
There is no doubt the world of equine vets is platinum, with common traits of hard work, kindness, consideration and fun running through us all
A second “world conference” followed with a visit to Pretoria. Suddenly the equine world was very big yet simultaneously very small. I joined key speakers Roger Smith and Michael Schramme at Heathrow airport and had a fantastic three days with them. Who knew that my presidency would improve my orthopaedic knowledge so much? As per AAEP, the welcome in Pretoria was incredible, and there is no doubt the world of equine vets is platinum, with common traits of hard work, kindness, consideration and fun running through us all. Another unexpected discovery was finding out that people breed warmbloods 200km away from the Namibian desert – forgive my ignorance, but as a stud vet, I did not expect that.
On return, I prepared and launched the BEVA recruitment and retention survey, and I would like to extend a huge and sincere thank you to all those who filled it in and returned it. Please be in no doubt that we know how annoying surveys can be, but they provide the information we need to make informed, meaningful, evidence-based changes to help our members. We now have data that represents 500 equine vets rather than an anecdote. On my behalf, Brad Hill will launch the survey’s findings at BEVA Congress next month. I will then follow up with focus groups drilling down into the most significant findings during my year as senior vice president.
This leads me to congress – with less than a few weeks to go, all is proceeding very well. The commercial exhibition is full, delegate numbers are on par with pre-pandemic levels and the late, late licence has been secured for the dinner – so we can dance until 2am! I am truly excited to see as many of our members as possible back together at one venue, learning and having fun, just as it all began when we arrived at university several years ago.
So, at the end of my term, what advice can I give Dave? Most importantly, he does not need guidance from me. He is an exceptional talent, and I cannot think of a better person to be handing over the baton to. As mentioned previously, he is a workhorse who gets things done: whatever the challenge, he will rise to it and give it his all. I guess all I can do is offer my support to him to be his “best presidential self”, just as, via my presidency, I tried to help BEVA enable you to be your “best vet self”.
Thank you to the BEVA members – you are what makes BEVA what it is. The energy we feel, and feed from, is thanks to you
Finally, a huge thank you to my council: there is a team of almost 30 volunteers who give up their “free” time to help this organisation. Without you, much less would be achieved, and the members would not be represented in the way they are. Also, thank you to the BEVA members – you are what makes BEVA what it is. The energy we feel, and feed from, is thanks to you.