Winners of one of world‘s largest veterinary awards revealed - Veterinary Practice
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Winners of one of world‘s largest veterinary awards revealed

Canine Health Awards highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science

Ahead of the live virtual ceremony, the winners of one of the largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in the world for 2021 have been announced. The International Canine Health Awards, which are organised by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill, founders of Metro Bank, highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science.

The winners include the pioneer of the VetCompass programme, whose work is devoted to generating a reliable evidence base that can support improved welfare in companion animal species; a world-renowned professor in veterinary neurology; two amazing undergraduate students from the RVC, studying the epidemiology of aural haematomas and the role of T cells in canine immunity, respectively; and a totally dedicated Beagle breed health coordinator.

A not-for-profit organisation which works with remote indigenous communities in ultra-remote regions of Australia to improve the health and welfare of their companion animals has also made history as the first organisation to receive an ICHA Special Award.

The winners are chosen by an independent international panel of eminent veterinarians and scientists. The ceremony will take place virtually on Wednesday 30 June at 2pm BST, and details on how to view will be provided to those who register their interest.

Launched at Crufts in 2012, the International Canine Health Awards were developed to recognise and reward innovative researchers, veterinary scientists and students who are significantly impacting the health and wellbeing of dogs. This year there are six International Awards, two of which are open global scientific awards: the International Award, with a prize of £40,000, and the Lifetime Achievement Award, with a prize of £10,000. There are two Undergraduate Student Inspiration Awards for students studying at UK veterinary schools, with a prize of £5,000 each, and the Breed Health Coordinator Award, with a prize of £5,000. In addition, this year there was the Special Award with a prize of £5,000.

Dr Dan O’Neill, awarded £40,000 for the International Award – The 2021 recipient of the International Award was recognised for his expertise in evidence-based approaches to exploring canine health from a quantitative perspective.

Dr O’Neill has developed VetCompass into an international programme of research which widely influences canine welfare. He has built a programme of undergraduate and postgraduate research projects that includes over 20 projects annually and is working to introduce the VetCompass concept with collaborators in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Germany, Singapore and Canada.

Dr O’Neill hopes to use the recognition and funding from this award to encourage and inspire the next generation of canine epidemiologists and to make his research findings accessible to dog owners in many new formats.

After hearing of his award, Dr O’Neill said: “Winning this award makes me feel as giddy as a schoolchild receiving their first A on an essay after years of trying so hard to get better. We all need a pat on the back now and then so thank you to the International Canine Health Awards and The Kennel Club Charitable Trust for delivering such a nice pat!

“Winning this award will hugely enhance my work in the future by raising the profile of VetCompass and companion animal epidemiology as valued contributors towards improved canine welfare. And the monetary aspect of the award will support the development of the next generation of researchers into the novel and exciting world of VetCompass work on canine welfare.”

Professor Andrea Tipold, awarded £10,000 for the Lifetime Achievement Award – The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award received the award in recognition of her exceptional contribution to veterinary neurology research and education across the world. Having dedicated her life to the mission of canine health by developing veterinary neurology, she has had a tremendous impact on canine quality of life.

Professor Tipold is Vice-President of Teaching and Head of Neurology at the University of Veterinary Medicine. Throughout her distinguished career, Professor Tipold has taught and trained many thousands of veterinary neurologists, veterinary residents and PhD students.

Upon hearing of her award, Professor Tipold said: “I am so grateful and honoured to receive this award. It is such an amazing and great experience and I am so proud. Thank you so much for electing me for this award – receiving this is the achievement which makes me the most proud!”

Yan Hui Lee, 24, awarded £5,000 for the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award – Yan Hui received the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award to help enable her to create an open access publication for her research, as well as developing a means to make her findings more accessible to dog owners using infographics.

Yan Hui has recently completed her studies in veterinary medicine at the RVC and will graduate in July 2021. In 2019 she joined the VetCompass programme as part of her research project investigating the epidemiology of aural haematomas (a collection of blood in the ear) in dogs. Her study found that breeds with pendulous ears (eg Beagles, Standard Poodles) had reduced odds of developing aural haematomas compared to breeds with other ear types. Dogs with V-shaped dropped ears (eg Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers) were found to be at increased odds. Her research proposes a new understanding of how the condition develops and may assist owners of these and other predisposed breeds to detect cases earlier and seek veterinary treatment sooner.

Upon hearing of her award. Yan Hui commented: “It feels very surreal and it has yet to sink in! I am very honoured and thankful for the recognition from the International Canine Health Awards, and this will certainly encourage me to continue improving and devoting time and passion into my work. I am truly excited to use the award to contribute towards improving breed health and animal welfare as a new graduate veterinarian.”

Eleanor Wilson, 22, awarded £5,000 for the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award – Eleanor, known as Ellie, also received the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award to further her research into a next generation sequencing approach for studying canine T-cell receptor rearrangements.

Ellie is an undergraduate who recently completed an intercalated BSc in Immunology during her veterinary medicine course at the RVC. Her principal research interest lies in the study of the immune system, in particular the role of T-cells in canine immunity. Working under the guidance of Dr Tim Connelley and Dr Maciej Parys at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Ellie helped to develop a new method of sequencing to investigate the activity of T-cell receptors in dogs and explore their influence on their immune status, particularly in dogs with lymphoma and septic shock.

Upon hearing of her award, Ellie commented: “It is an honour to have been selected for this award and to be amongst this amazing group of scientists and previous winners of this prize.

“This recognition has given me confidence and made me excited to move forward onto the next stages of my career. The support of The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and the International Canine Health Awards has allowed me to return to the Roslin Institute to do some further work on a next generation sequencing approach for studying canine T-cell receptor rearrangements. The award will allow me to study more about the role of T-cells in cancer that will hopefully help lead us towards new therapies and assist in monitoring responses to treatment.”

Dr Samantha Goldberg, awarded £5,000 for the Breed Health Co-ordinator Award – The recipient of the International Canine Health Award’s Breed Health Coordinator of the Year was recognised for her dedication and commitment to improving the health of the Beagle, a breed she has been involved with for over 40 years.

Her passion for the breed has united the ten breed clubs, enabling them to have a consistent and proactive attitude to all Beagle health-related matters and engage with breeders worldwide. She is keen to provide owners and breeds with useful health information through leaflets, articles, social media and comprehensive website. In 2019, Dr Goldberg conducted a Beagle health survey that collected 950 individual responses, representing 1,531 dogs from across the globe.

Upon hearing of her award, Samantha said: “I am delighted to win this award, and I would like to thank the Beagle breed clubs who put me forward. We have worked very hard to keep our breed healthy and it is a joint effort with me just coordinating the actions of the clubs and their members, as well as Beagle owners who care about our breed. Beagles are fun, stubborn, friendly and heedless all mixed in together.”

AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities), awarded £5,000 for the 2021 Special Award – this recipient is the first organisation ever to win an award and was given the accolade in recognition of their extraordinary work in creating culturally safe veterinary and education programmes in remote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Their work has been shown to be essential in assisting and empowering these often-isolated communities to meet their needs for companion animal health, care and safety.

Based in Darwin, Australia, AMRRIC was founded in 1998 and its unique approach has been based on a deep respect for the cultures and values of remote Indigenous communities (RICs). AMRRIC utilises a “One Health One Wellbeing” model of service delivery, developed over years of dialogue and engagement with Indigenous communities, that recognises dogs as being intrinsic to the fabric of each community, and acknowledges the inseparable links between the health and wellbeing of companion animals and that of their owners and their communities.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Dr Bonny Cumming, Program Manager and Acting CEO at AMRRIC said: “We are truly thrilled to be the first recipients of a Special International Canine Health Award. To be honoured with this award is absolutely humbling. It’s also wonderful validation of the value and impact of AMRRIC’s work to address health inequities, by working collaboratively to improving the health and wellbeing of companion animals in remote Australian Indigenous communities.

“The international recognition that this award brings will help to shine a spotlight on the continuing disadvantage faced by many RICs when it comes to accessing animal health services. It also assists to cement AMRRIC’s reputation as a leader in the delivery of collaborative, culturally appropriate, One Health One Wellbeing-focused services that aim to ensure communities are healthy and safe for people and their companion animals.”

Dr Andrew Higgins, Chairman of the International Canine Health Awards panel and trustee of The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: “We are delighted to recognise these five extraordinary individuals this year, as well as to introduce the Special Award for such a very deserving organisation.

“These winners have unequivocally demonstrated their dedication and commitment to improving canine health and welfare from all ends of the spectrum and across the world, and each thoroughly deserves to be honoured with their award. We want to thank them so much on behalf of the dog world for their contribution to raising awareness, knowledge and understanding of canine health, and we look forward to hearing more from all of them in the future.”

Vernon Hill, founder and chairman emeritus of Metro Bank, and whose major gift underwrites the International Canine Health Awards, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 International Canine Health Awards. We are pleased to recognise such inspirational individuals and organisations who are working tirelessly to improve the health and welfare of dogs, all across the world.”

For more information on the International Canine Health Awards please visit the KC‘s website.

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