An unforgettable experience for all who attended... - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

An unforgettable experience for all who attended…

ANDREW ASH
president of the BSAVA, records
his impressions of a memorable
WSAVA congress – with a little
rugby thrown in for good
measure – on the South Korean
island of Jeju

THE WSAVA congress is a celebration of all that is right with the international veterinary profession. Vets from many nations enjoy each other’s company, exchanging ideas, sharing technology and working together in co-operation for the benefit of all. This spirit of togetherness and cooperation was exemplified at WSAVA/FSAVA/KAHA in Jeju, South Korea, when 3,500 participants from around the world (mainly Asia) gathered for the 51st WSAVA. Jeju is an island of 550,000 inhabitants, a special self-governing province of South Korea, located in the South Korean Strait, close to the province of Jeollanamdo. What was once an agricultural and fishing economy is evolving into a tourist destination: the island has been shortlisted as a contender to be one of the new seven wonders of the world, as well as being a UNESCO heritage site. The event was wonderfully organised by the local committee and what they may have lacked in experience of organising events such as this, they made up for with collective enthusiasm and dedication. In Jeju, it is said that the camphor tree, Nocknamu, characterises the traits of Jeju people, shown by their diligence, practicality and endurance in adversity. The congress involved some 250 lectures including the WSAVA award lectures and the WSAVA One Health award which was presented to the OIE (Office International des Epizooties or World Organization for Animal Health). This new One Health award is entirely appropriate in this the 250th year of our profession and one which has seen the eradication of rinderpest from the globe. Achievements such as these show the power of the medical and veterinary professions working together. The next challenge for OIE is rabies, which takes an estimated 55,000 lives, more than 40% of victims being under 15 years old. This may prove difficult – the biggest source of human infection is transmission from stray dogs, a reservoir of infection. Here, the worldwide veterinary profession can have a huge impact with vaccination programmes, controlling and identifying dogs, as well as border controls and education. These points were well made by both Tomoko Ishibashi in her plenary lecture and Bernard Vallat, OIE director general in his videoed acceptance speech at the opening ceremony.

Aiming for consistency

The OIE is also turning its attention to undergraduate veterinary education with the aim that one day, standards can be raised consistently. I found it telling that Tomoko Ishibashi identified lack of training rather than resources as being the limiting factor when it comes to disease control. Without an effective veterinary profession, the control of disease such as rabies will never be achieved. Attending congresses overseas is also a chance to network and I was fortunate to meet Lawson Cairns, a
Scotsman and an RVC graduate who has been working with tireless energy and enthusiasm to help educate vets in Southern Africa. I am proud to say that the majority of the funding that he receives via WSAVA comes from the BSAVA. He organises basic CPD across the region on topics such as “how to perform a consultation” or urine analysis. Every penny is well spent. The most striking thing about the Asian vets that I met at this congress was their total enthusiasm for the profession and craving for knowledge. They simply soak it up.

Expensive education

In Korea, parents would expect to pay 50-60% of their income on
educating their children through school and university – so perhaps this hunger for knowledge is understandable. So, what of the Gecko bar and all this international sharing and cooperation? This congress’s scientific programme had some serious competition, at least for sports fans in the shape of the
Rugby World Cup, the semi-finals of which were played over the
middle two days of the congress. Arriving at the BSAVA stand with England already on their way home in disgrace, working the week with a Welshman and positioned next to the New Zealanders, I knew I would have to “man up”. A few parallels were quickly drawn between incomplete exhibition stand (which had been delayed by customs) and the “non arrival” of England’s team at the World Cup. The second semi-final clash between the All Blacks and Australia was eagerly awaited, a bar located with sports TV (not easy to find) and a coach organised for transport. I would estimate about 60 to 80 of us arrived to watch the game, only to discover that Korean TV had chosen to delay the match so as to show highlights of the Korean grand prix from earlier in the day. This is where the co-operation came in.
The non-English speaking bar staff and the Australian with the lap top, without a word understood between them, managed to set up a feed to show the live game from the bar’s wi-fi, via the lap top, to the TV screen. It was a hugely successful congress
with a fantastic atmosphere and great spirit against the
backdrop of a beautiful island and a warm, welcoming people. It was an unforgettable experience for delegates and accompanying people alike. I am very grateful to WSAVA and
the tireless organisers who put together this unique event.

  • There were 1,500 vets and a total of 3,500 participants; the majority of delegates were (925) from Korea and other countries with significant numbers were Taiwan (98), Japan (89), Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Thailand. Speakers from the UK included Kathy Clarke, Dr Cecilia Gorrel and Professor Michael Day.

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