IF quality of service is what BSAVA members want from their association, who better to provide it than Grant Petrie?
As an ace tennis player, Grant played for his county – Buckinghamshire; his university – Cambridge; and his country – if you include his appearances as part of the Oxbridge side in a biennial competition with a combined Harvard and Yale team. Family and work commitments have long since put an end to his career in competitive sport, so the same vision, energy and dedication is now directed towards his new role leading the small animal wing of the veterinary profession.
Assuming there are no last-minute hitches, Grant will be installed as the next president of the BSAVA at its annual general meeting in Birmingham on 11th April.
Yet Grant appears slightly wrongfooted by his rise through the association’s hierarchy. He says he volunteered to sit on the education committee in 2001, expecting to serve a three-year term and then return to “private” life as a double certificate holder (cardiology and internal medicine) in referral practice.
Instead, he was asked to serve as the committee chairman and then as honorary secretary and junior vice-president of the association.
Having spent much of his career as a lecturer at the RVC, education was an obvious focus for Grant when he first became involved with the association and it will be his main priority during his presidential year.
“There are many different elements to the BSAVA’s continuing education activities – there is congress, the regional meetings, manuals and journals, etc. My hope for the next 12 months is to be able to implement a strategy to improve the integration of all these different sources of learning opportunities into an overall educational programme.”
Providing continuing education for its membership is, of course, the BSAVA’s raison d’etre. Most objective observers would agree that the association makes a pretty good job of it, for example, in hosting the biggest CPD event for small animal practitioners in Europe, if not the world. But there is no cause for complacency, Grant insists, and the association must be vigilant in defending its current position.
“If you go back, say five or 10 years, then the BSAVA and veterinary CPD were pretty well synonymous. If that is what you wanted then we were the people to come to. But the marketplace is changing, there are now a huge number of other organisations providing CPD and the competition is much greater.
“Our events are outstanding value for money but some of the other providers are willing, because of commercial sponsorship, to provide CPD without charge. We must respond to that challenge if we are to maintain our pre-eminent position.”
With his colleagues in the association’s officer and committee structure, Grant hopes to support the regional groups in providing more and better CPD events for a more local audience. “There can be a perception that an organisation like BSAVA exists to provide its member benefits through a central organisation. But we are also a ‘grassroots’ organisation and we must be looking to re-invigorate that part of our activities.”
The nature of educational provision is also changing, Grant notes. Not all members want to receive all their training through the traditional didactic route – many choose on- line learning for a significant part of their allowance. “This is an area in which new providers have made rapid progress and we will have to catch up with them. All I can say at the moment is that there are some exciting developments in the pipeline.”
Although he recognises that there are challenges ahead, Grant knows he is assuming responsibility for an association that is in robust health. Last year’s congress broke all records and advance bookings for the 2010 event are up on last year. Membership is also holding steady despite the chill economic winds.
“The BSAVA itself appears to be pretty recession-proof but we know that times are hard for many in practice. For the first time in many years, there are new graduates who have been unable to find jobs six months after graduation and we have also heard of recent recruits being made redundant because the work isn’t there. So we will be doing everything we can to help members and ensure that the association offers good value.”
Grant is keen to remove any impression that he is taking sole responsibility for the direction that the BSAVA will be taking over the next 12 months. “The association works through the efforts of about 150 veterinary surgeons working as volunteers and the permanent staff at Woodrow House who put their plans into action. I may have the role of president but everything that will be done over the next year is a result of joint decision, I am just a figurehead.”
But for 12 months he will be the public face of the BSAVA wherever he may go. During the year he will be representing the association at various national and some international conferences. This will be no hardship for Grant as he is an enthusiastic traveller. “But you shouldn’t go away with the impression that a president’s year involves a lot of jetting about. Most of the trips will be to meetings of our sister associations here in the UK.
Over the years I have been lucky to see some beautiful parts of the world and there are a lot more places that I want to see. But that is something for the future.”