The UK One Health Coordination Group (UKOHCG) has elected multi-disciplined human and animal health nurse, Helen Ballantyne as its new chair for 2020/2021.
Helen, who currently works as a Clinical Nurse Specialist for Living Kidney Donation and also trained and worked as a veterinary nurse, stepped up to the role of chair for the group in late September, and will oversee it for the coming year.
The fact that Helen’s career straddles the worlds of both human and animal health is significant to the group as its aims are to identify and promote UK “One Health” initiatives and projects which see multiple disciplines working together to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.
The One Health Coordination Group is made up of specialists from across the UK veterinary, human healthcare professions and environmental sectors. In 2019, it produced a first of its kind One Health in Action Report which included initiatives from the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, Wildlife Trusts, the Royal College of Nursing, the BVA, Mind Matters and the National Trust. One Health was also a clear theme for action in both the Vet Futures and VN Futures reports.
On accepting the role as chair of the UKOHCG, Helen said:
‘’I feel deeply honoured to be given the opportunity to chair this passionate and forward-thinking group of people as we share One Health knowledge and disseminate examples of effective collaborative initiatives.
‘’The UKOHCG meetings are always so exciting. As the agenda evolves very often new ideas, new links and new contacts are made; it’s One Health happening in real time. The group is made up of passionate and motivated individuals who are representing large networks; for example the National Trust, the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association are all members.’’
Helen graduated with a degree in Pharmacology in 2002 and qualified as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) in 2005. She went on to work as a locum nurse working nationally and internationally where she gathered experience in referral medicine and surgery, charity practice, emergency nursing and exotics. She also spent five years on the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) council, which culminated in her being awarded honorary membership.
During this time, Helen obtained a Post Graduate Diploma in Adult Nursing which led to her current role as a Clinical Nurse Specialist for Living Kidney Donation where she supports living kidney donors through the process of donation and organises kidney transplant surgeries. As part of this role, she also works a Transplant Coordinator managing the logistics of matching, retrieving and transplanting abdominal organs from deceased donors.
‘’I am particularly pleased to be chairing this distinguished group on behalf of the BVNA. Nurses sit at the forefront of many One Health issues, from AMR, to using human-centred resources to signpost owners in difficult circumstances.
“Nurses are ideally placed to pioneer One Health projects with their team, whether it be championing national campaigns or supporting local initiatives. I hope more Vet Nurses will start to think about One Health and how it could benefit them, their patients and the wider community.’’
BVNA President, Jo Oakden said:
“Helen is an ideal candidate to take the chair of the UKOHCG, she is a fabulous advocate and inspiration for veterinary nurses and is an active member of the BVNA. One health is even more significant in the present climate; veterinary nurses are ideally placed to be actively involved in One Health, and with Helen at the helm more will be inspired to think about what can be achieved with One Health. We at the BVNA are looking forward to working with Helen and progressing One Health further within our profession.”
Helen will be taking over the responsibility from the BVA’s former president and vet, Simon Doherty. Speaking on her appointment, he said:
“Helen has been a key member of the UK One Health Coordination Group since it was founded in 2017. She’s an enthusiastic One Health champion and brings a wealth of experience from her combined human and animal health background. I’m really looking forward to continuing to work with Helen over the next few years as she takes over the reins and continues to develop the influence of the group.”