Building “connections that count” core for new RCVS President who took over the reins at Royal College Day 2021 - Veterinary Practice
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Building “connections that count” core for new RCVS President who took over the reins at Royal College Day 2021

Dr Kate Richards was confirmed as the 150th RCVS President at the College’s 2021 Annual General Meeting

The new President of the RCVS has committed to dedicating her 2021-22 presidential term to
making connections that count between the RCVS and the veterinary professions,
within the veterinary professions, and between the veterinary professions and
other healthcare professions, as well as wider society.

Dr Kate Richards was confirmed as the 150th RCVS
President at the College’s 2021 Annual General Meeting, which took place on
Friday 9 July. Kate’s investiture makes her the 10th female
President of the RCVS and the first to lead an all-female presidential team
with Senior Vice-President Mandisa Greene and Junior Vice-President Melissa
Donald.

Kate has been an elected member of RCVS Council from 2015
to 2019 and then from 2020 onwards, and brings with her a large array of
professional experience having worked in clinical farm practice, in the
pharmaceutical industry and as a senior civil servant in non-veterinary roles,
including as Principal Private Secretary to three Secretaries of State for
Scotland.

She’s a graduate from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary
Studies at the University of Edinburgh and during her time on RCVS Council has
chaired the Standards Committee and been a member of the Legislation Working
Party. She currently chairs the Preliminary Investigation Committee/Disciplinary Committee Liaison Committee and sits on the Education Committee,
Registration Committee, VN Council, Primary Qualifications Subcommittee and the
Environmental and Sustainability Working Party.

During her first speech as RCVS President, Kate spoke about
how experiences of loneliness early in her veterinary career, when she was
working in rural farm vet practice, has led her to have a deep understanding of
the importance of connection, something which has been reinforced by the
coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “The COVID pandemic has demonstrated the value of
connections for our mental health and wellbeing. Social distancing has
spotlighted in fluorescent pinks, blues and greens the need for social
connections. When hungry we eat, thirsty we drink, when we feel lonely we need
to connect.

“And that starts with connecting with ourselves, nurturing
our minds and bodies, building our sense of self and resilience. I am
passionate about initiatives including the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative and
Vetlife that support our professions.

“Connections within the professions have been fundamental
to my career, providing opportunities to collaborate, extend my knowledge and
forge support networks. I look forward to building stronger connections with
vets in the UK and abroad, including the Federation of Veterinarians in Europe.
I’m so excited about the energy, new connections and networks springing up in
the profession.

“I’ve worked in non-veterinary roles where I’ve had the
opportunity to make new connections and share knowledge across professional
disciplines.

“Pre-pandemic I attended a seminar on domestic violence.
Speakers from social services said how hard it was to identify victims of
domestic violence who were too scared to report. I informed the room about the
Links Group, which works hard to raise awareness of the connection between the
abuse of animals and people. Sadly, there are still silos, disconnections
between well-meaning professionals. That proves to me the critical role of vets
in human health and welfare by reporting animals they suspect of non-accidental
injury.”

She concluded her speech (which is available to read in
full at the website) by
saying: “I am excited about my presidential year, thankful for my connections, my
iceberg of support. I’m thankful for the wise counsel of past Presidents
especially Mandisa Greene and Niall Connell. My priority is to encourage Connections that Count,
making sure we look after ourselves so that we can build vibrant purposeful and
powerful connections across ours and allied professions for the good of animal
and human health and welfare, for our communities, society and the environment.

“My aim this year? To amplify and extend the reach of the
veterinary voice.”

AGM business

The AGM was conducted mostly virtually with key personnel –
including the Presidential Team – being present at the RCVS headquarters at
Belgravia House. The occasion began with a welcome from the outgoing President
Dr Mandisa Greene, including reading a message from Her Majesty the Queen as
Patron of the RCVS, the approval of the minutes of last year’s AGM and the
formal adoption of the Annual
Report and Financial Statements 2020
(available to download at the website).

Mandisa then answered two questions that had been received
in advance from members of the professions regarding the Annual Report. The
first question was from Alastair Welch MRCVS and asked about using the
College’s reserves to invest in leadership and staff for the RCVS Professional
Conduct Department better to meet its key performance indicators (KPIs) for
resolving complaints or moving them to the next stage. In the College’s
response it acknowledged the stress that delays in investigating cases can
cause for all parties and that it was seeking to invest in more staff, but
added that a number of factors could contribute to delays during the concerns
investigation process, including waiting for evidence and information from
respondents, complaints and witnesses. The College’s response added that the
RCVS was always looking to improve how it operated, which is why Council
recently approved a streamlined structure for the concerns investigation
process, using smaller-scale Preliminary Investigation Committees (or
mini-PICs).

The second question came from James Russell, President of
the BVA, on behalf of its members and asked
why the College’s financial reserves had increased, what they would be used
for, and whether the College could reduce annual renewal fees as a result.

The response from the RCVS stated that the reserves policy
was there to provide resilience in the event of unexpected costs or financial
losses and to fund for future activities within the Strategic Plan, including
funding the process of the RCVS seeking and purchasing new premises which was
currently underway. The response added that the annual renewal fee for 2021-22
was not increasing nor was the RCVS seeking to increase fees for 2022-23.

The full questions and answers will be included in the full
AGM minutes which will be published in due course.

RCVS Council election, appointments and
retirements

Next, the AGM moved on to the results of the 2021 RCVS
Council election and Dr Danny Chambers, who was re-elected for a four-year
term, was welcomed back on to Council, along with newly-elected members Dr
Tshidi Gardiner, Dr Colin Whiting and Dr Louise Allum, each for four-year
terms.

RCVS Council also welcomed two new members appointed by the
Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) – Professor Timothy Parkin from the University
of Bristol and Professor Christopher Proudman from the University of Surrey –
to replace Liverpool’s Professor Susan Dawson, who stepped down from Council at
the AGM, and Edinburgh’s Professor David Argyle, who had resigned earlier in
the year. Both of their terms will run until July 2024.

Appointed RCVS Council lay members Mark Castle, Linda Ford
and Judith Worthington were also confirmed for further four-year terms.

Turning to retirements, the first farewell was said to
Professor Dawson, who was stepping down after nine years’ service on Council
and after a year as RCVS Treasurer. In saying farewell, Mandisa praised Susan’s
contribution to the Graduate Outcomes Project and particularly student mental
health and wellbeing via her chairing of the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI), a
role she would continue for a further year.

The next retirement was David Leicester who had served on
Council for three years and was noted for his service on the Standards
Committee and the Recognised Veterinary Practice Subcommittee and his work for
the Ethics Review Panel.

Dr Caroline Allen, who served on Council for four years,
was praised for her service on the Advancement of the Professions and Standards
Committees and for bringing the charity sector voice to debates and
deliberations as the Chief Veterinary Officer for the RSPCA.

Martin Peaty, who served for four years, was noted for his
role in the reform of the Statutory Examination for Membership and chairmanship
of the Statutory Examination Board, a role he will continue in for a further
year.

Dr Cheryl Scudamore, with four years’ service, was praised
for her involvement in the development of the soon-to-be-launched Veterinary
Graduate Development Programme (VetGDP) and the Fellowship initiative as one of
those responsible for assessing applications to the learned society. She will
also continue as a Vice-Chair of the Fellowship Board.

Finally, Council said farewell to Dr Christopher Tufnell
after 12 years’ service, including as President for 2016/17. Mandisa
highlighted some of his achievements during his time on the presidential team
including the launch of the Brexit Taskforce and its development of the RCVS
Brexit Principles, presiding over the inaugural Fellowship Day, his role in the
Vet Futures Summit and launch of the Vet Futures Action Plan, his leadership of
and contribution to the ViVet innovation project and his role in developing
international links. Chris will continue to work with ViVet as Innovation Lead
following his retirement from Council as well as working on the RCVS global
strategy for a further year.

VN Council election, appointments and
retirements

Turning next to the RCVS Veterinary Nurses (VN) Council,
its chair Matthew Rendle welcomed Susan Howarth and Donna Lewis on to VN
Council for three-year terms. Susan had automatically been re-elected to VN
Council as the only person to have submitted a nomination for election before
the original deadline of 31 January 2021, while Donna Lewis was elected to VN
Council from the 14 candidates who subsequently stood for election.

Regarding appointed members, Belinda Andrews-Jones, Alison
Carr, and Kathy Kissick were all re-appointed for further three-year terms to
July 2024.

The one VN Council retirement this year was Andrea Jeffery
who had served on VN Council since its very first meeting in 2002 and was its
chair from 2005 to 2009. Matthew praised Andrea’s instrumental role in
developing the Code of
Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses
as well as the latest
iteration of accreditation standards for veterinary nurse educators.
Furthermore, he noted that she was the first veterinary nurse to serve on RCVS
Council as an appointee of the University of Bristol.

Finally, Mandisa said farewell to Elizabeth Butler, who had
served as inaugural chair of the RCVS Audit and Risk Committee since 2012 and
has led on several key governance changes for the RCVS including the
development of a corporate risk register as well as a review of auditors, the
introduction of a charity governance code and changing how the College’s annual
accounts are presented. Elizabeth has been succeeded as Chair of Audit and Risk Committee by Janice Shardlow.

Election of Officer Team

Following the conclusion of the AGM, there was then a short
meeting of the newly-constituted RCVS Council to approve the 2021-22 Officer
Team of Dr Kate Richards as RCVS President, Dr Mandisa Greene as Senior
Vice-President, Dr Melissa Donald as Junior Vice-President and Dr Niall Connell
as RCVS Treasurer.

RCVS Council members voted to approve the team and,
following a short break, the occasion moved on to formal addresses from senior
staff and the Officer Team.

CEO’s address

In her address, RCVS Chief Executive Officer Lizzie Lockett
gave an overview of the College’s achievements over the past year in relation
to the 2020-24 Strategic Plan and in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said that the past year had been dominated in many ways
by coronavirus with over 30 different temporary policy changes having to be
enacted, plus regular updates to RCVS guidance in response to guidance changes
in the UK and devolved administrations.

Despite all this, however, she said the College had managed
not only to sustain ‘business as usual’ but go beyond that to fulfil key
aspects of the Strategic Plan including the development of the VetGDP, the completion
and adoption of the legislative reform proposals, ongoing work on the under
care and out-of-hours review, a consultation on new education accreditation
standards, the launch of a Diversity and Inclusion Group Strategy, discussion
and debate with international partners on the mental health impact of
coronavirus and much more.

Lizzie commented: “Finally, a huge thank you to the staff team – I usually
say ‘at Belgravia House’ but of course they are scattered to the four winds at
the moment! You have tackled the difficulties of these last 12 months with
determination, grace, flexibility and compassion, and I am very proud of all of
you. The pandemic has brought many tough challenges to tackle outside of your
worklife, but you have remained dedicated to animal health and welfare
throughout.

“Thank you also to our Council members who have put in a
huge amount of additional hours for us this year, and to our incredibly
supportive Officer Team.”

VN Council Chair’s address

Following Lizzie’s speech, she handed over to Matthew
Rendle for his address, which looked at the significance of 2021 as veterinary
nursing’s Diamond Jubilee – representing 60 years since the first RCVS-approved
Auxiliary Nursing Assistant course.

He spoke about how this was likely to be a year of firsts
for the profession, including the awarding of the first Certificates in
Advanced Veterinary Nursing, the recruitment of the first VN Practice Standards
Scheme Assessors and the first time there would be 20,000 veterinary nurses on
the RCVS Register.

He also spoke about the planned activities to celebrate the
Diamond Jubilee including webinars, podcasts and the publication of an eBook
about the history of the profession.

He said: “For my own first podcast I interviewed Jean
Turner who – I don’t think she’ll mind me saying – has been a member of the
profession for a good chunk of the last 60 years.

“She’s a real professional hero of mine and I had a
fascinating conversation with her about what has changed, what hasn’t changed
and what really needs to change!

“Speaking to Jean reminded me that we all stand on the
shoulders of giants. Where we are as a profession is down to those who came
before us and we owe it to them, and future generations of veterinary nurses,
to make sure we are always progressing and improving.”

He stated that, with RCVS Council’s adoption of the
proposals for legislative reform in June this year, the veterinary nursing
profession had a bright future ahead of it with protection of title and a
bolstered role in areas such as anaesthesia being included in any future
legislation.

He concluded: “I still sometimes hear my veterinary nursing
colleagues refer to themselves as ‘just a veterinary nurse’. Whenever I hear it
said, I challenge it.

“With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year I think we
will be making a very big challenge to that mindset, and it will remind all
veterinary nurses that we are brilliant professionals, with a long and proud
history and that we are a force for good in society.”

Outgoing President’s address

Before the formal investiture of Kate Richards as RCVS
President for 2021-22, it was Mandisa Greene’s opportunity as the outgoing
President to give her final address.

She started with an anecdote about a plaque her parents
gave her stating, “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way
things turn out,” and said that this had been a guiding principle for her
presidential year which, while taking place under difficult conditions, she was
determined to make the best of.

She said a source of constant inspiration were new members
of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions and the veterinary teams
who continued to work for animal health and welfare in difficult conditions,
and she gave her condolences to all those members of the professions who may
have lost loved ones due to the pandemic.

She said: “Standing before you now, I recall former
Presidents in my position at the end of their year reflecting on the work they
completed. One thing I have realised through my activities this year and
through seeing how hard the RCVS has been working to fulfil the new Strategic
Plan, despite all the challenges of the pandemic, is that the work is never
complete. We must never stop trying to improve what we do and how we do it –
and that goes for us as veterinary professionals as well as the RCVS as our
regulator. Change is often likened to a marathon, it takes time but with the
desire and consistent dedication and commitment to taking small but positive
steps we will eventually see a big difference.

“My vision for this year was to prioritise with renewed
intention both diversity and the celebration of primary care professionals.
Much has happened in that regard, but it does not stop with the end of my term.

“We started our primary care project work through the
Advancement of the Professions Committee with the aim of this project to
champion general practitioner professionals, recognising the immense
contribution that our general practitioners make to animal health and welfare
and how they, as the members of the professions the public most often come into
contact with, are the frontline ambassadors for the brilliance of what we do as
veterinary professionals.”

Mandisa also said her involvement in talks and
presentations with school-age children from a range of backgrounds during her
year as President made her realise that a lack of diversity within the veterinary
professions was not inevitable.

She added: “It gives me hope for our future, but it has
also confirmed a long-held view of mine that the lack of diversity in our
professions is not solely due to a lack of desire to join the professions.
Something happens somewhere along the way to alter the perception of what might
be possible for some people. The diversity and inclusion strategy launched this
year is aiming to discover and address some of these issues, along with
providing greater support for current veterinary professionals from ethnic or
religious minorities or from the LGBTQ+ community.”

New Officer Team

After thanking her friends and family, Mandisa moved on to
retirements from the Officer Team starting with Susan Dawson who has served as
RCVS Treasurer for 2020-21 and whom she thanked for her role in the COVID Taskforce and making complex and difficult decisions relating to the financial
impact of the pandemic both on the College and the wider profession.

She also said farewell to Niall Connell as Senior
Vice-President, noting his role as a mentor for the Officer Team, his calm
leadership during the early months of the pandemic, his commitment to diversity
and inclusion, and his kindness and good humour.

With that, Mandisa formally handed over the presidential
chain of office to Kate and, in turn, received her past-President’s badge.

Kate’s first role as new President was to say a few words
about her predecessor, acknowledging her historic role as the first Black woman
to hold the office of RCVS President, her expert ability to chair a meeting on
Zoom and guide complex and sometimes controversial discussions through Council.

Following her own address (as detailed above) Kate drew a
formal close to the 178th Annual General Meeting of the RCVS, confirming
that an Honours and Awards ceremony would be taking place in September for
those who received an RCVS award this year.

All of the speeches from the day can be read on
the news section of the RCVS website.

Veterinary Practice

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