Vet Futures students’ rallying call for One Health Week

Ginnie Baker is a third-year student at the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh. With a love of the outdoors and all things furry, she believes the future of the veterinary profession is entwined with human health and that of the environment around us. Ginnie is part of the Vet Futures Student Ambassadors’ team focusing on One Health.

Only three years ago, I remember chatting in my interviews about my love of One Health and my interests in zoonotics that had driven me to apply to vet school earlier in the year. Reading ‘Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic’ by David Quammen left me dreaming of investigating an emerging infectious disease in the Congo and working with doctors and epidemiologists to stop a pandemic in its tracks.

Fast forward to now: when given the opportunity to plan a national project on the One Health topic, I leapt at the chance to get involved. After drafting together some of key ideas at our Vet Futures Student Ambassador training day in October 2017, a small group of One Health enthusiasts developed a plan for One Heath Week. Our plan is to get students everywhere talking about the links between animal, human and environmental health and how we can work together to improve the lives of all things bright and beautiful.

The national One Health Week will run from 28 October to 2 November 2018 to coincide with international One Health Day on 3 November. We want to run a series of events at each of the veterinary schools to get people thinking about One Health in a fun and interactive way.

In April we started our recruitment from each of the vet schools where we are looking for committee members to help us make One Health week a success at each of the schools. Our original One Health focus group is made up of only five members at only four of the UK vet schools so we need extra help on the ground to make the week happen.

Each of the university committees will be responsible for enabling the running of a minimum number of activities at each of the schools so all students, ideally not just vets, will get a chance to take part. There will be a poster competition being launched in late May and later a photo competition centred around the theme of One Health with prizes to encourage as many people to enter as possible.

We want to get students thinking outside of their curriculum about the importance of Global Health, from using less plastic to help environmental and marine health, to the cost of drugs and pharmaceutical patents. Many of these subjects aren’t covered in our day-to-day lectures, but they matter and the world needs veterinary surgeons’ problem-solving skills to combat problems affecting the health of everyone and everything.

To get involved, please like our Facebook page and keep your eyes peeled for updates on the week. We’d love for as many people as possible to get involved so drop us an email via

What’s your big idea?

Zoe Skinner, is a Vet Futures Student Ambassador from Nottingham University and has an interest in farm animal medicine, One Health and how new developments will shape the future of the veterinary profession. She describes the VF Student Ambassadors’ Innovation Team’s new initiative, designed to give more vet students the opportunity to get involved with veterinary innovation.

As a Vet Futures student ambassador, I was fortunate to attend the first RCVS innovation symposium with other student ambassadors from across the country. The day was incredibly interesting and opened my eyes to innovations such as new business models, artificial intelligence and big data as well as how these developments will affect the veterinary profession. I also learned the importance of embracing innovation to ensure the role of a veterinary surgeon remains relevant and the need for veterinary professionals to be at the forefront of new developments to ensure there is a focus on improving the health and welfare of animals.

I must admit, before attending the symposium, I had never considered the extent to which innovation and new technology will reform my future career. This is something I am sure I am not alone in, as I believe it is easy for veterinary students to focus solely on the approaches currently taught in our curriculum without considering how these might change in the future. The day inspired me to encourage other students to become involved in innovation so I was keen to join the innovation project group when the opportunity arose at the Vet Futures training day.

After lots of brainstorming, the innovation project team have come up with a plan to introduce a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition to UK and Ireland veterinary universities in order to help realise the potential in the next generation of innovators. Student teams will be challenged with identifying an issue facing our industry and designing a new solution; then pitching their idea to a board of industry professionals. We plan to launch the competition in September 2018 with prize giving taking place at the RCVS innovation symposium in 2019. Teams will be encouraged to diversify their skill set and include students from outside the veterinary sphere with plans in place to reach out to business and technology schools at corresponding universities to determine if they would like to be involved.

We hope the competition will fuel an interest amongst our fellow students to embrace innovation and new technology and encourage them to learn about the changes it will bring to our profession. After all, using new technology in our daily lives has become second nature to our generation, so why can’t we embrace this in our chosen profession? I believe encouraging students to grasp the potential that innovation holds from the beginning of their veterinary education will produce graduates who are confident to be at the forefront of creating and embracing innovation, ensuring it is used in a way that that focuses on improving veterinary care.

Shaping a future to share

Eleanor Robertson (pictured) is the Senior-Vice President of the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) UK and Ireland and is currently in her fourth year at Liverpool University. With a passion for global health, having completed an intercalated masters in the subject at Maastricht University, Eleanor is interested in the vital contribution of the veterinary profession to a sustainable future.

The initiation of Vet Futures in 2014 was a cause of great excitement amongst the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) committee, myself included. Why? Because as students, the future of the veterinary profession, we should be active in shaping it and championing the project through a myriad of various opportunities.

Vet Futures was established jointly by the RCVS and BVA with the proactive aim of readying the profession for an uncertain future. By foreseeing some of the challenges the veterinary team might face, Vet Futures encourages innovative thinking and presents a co-ordinated approach to them.

So, keen to play our part in making the project a success, AVS created the ‘Vet Futures Student Ambassadors’ initiative. We wanted not only to increase the visibility of this incredible project at a student level, but also encourage active engagement with it.

We promised the BVA and RCVS ‘excellent and dynamic’ individuals to become ambassadors, so… no pressure there. Although, as you all know, vet students seem to be a sea of enthusiastic, driven individuals! We were delighted at the level of interest from students from across all the vet schools and very impressed by the ideas and innovative thinking demonstrated in the applications.

Vet Futures Ambassadors at the training day in London

The newly appointed Vet Future Ambassadors then came down to the RCVS headquarters in London for a day of training. The day included training on planning, communication, presentation and leadership, focusing on developing student-led projects.

A lot of coloured pens later, we had five project groups that are now hard at work bringing the Vet Futures ambitions to fruition among vet students. These groups focus on innovation, One Health, mental health awareness, veterinary societal outreach and Graduate Outcomes.

I am really excited to introduce this project to you all. Have questions or want to contribute? Don’t hesitate to get in touch – We want vet students to embrace the amazing opportunity we have here! Keep an eye on the AVS website for updates on our progress!!

Vet Futures student ambassadors

Training day for new Vet Futures student ambassadors

The Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) held the first training day for its new Vet Futures Student Ambassadors last Thursday.

The day was hosted by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA), and supported by the Veterinary Schools Council.

A recurring theme throughout the Vet Futures project has been a need for a broader range of career options for veterinary surgeons, and research identified that dissatisfaction was already present among student veterinary surgeons and recent graduates.

Since the launch of the Vet Futures Action Plan in July 2016 the College and BVA have been engaging with the wider profession to take forward the 24 actions, and AVS developed the idea for the Vet Futures Student Ambassadors programme. Two students each from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Nottingham, Surrey, and Glasgow, along with University College Dublin and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) were selected to become Vet Futures Ambassadors who could champion Vet Futures within their schools and develop and deliver some student specific projects in line with the Vet Futures ambitions.

The training day included training on planning, communication, presentation and leadership, and discussion aimed at developing student-led projects, facilitated by College and BVA staff.

Themes chosen by the students as areas for focus included innovation, veterinary careers, communication with the public on animal welfare issues, mental health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals and One Health.

Rosanna Kirkwood, one of the ambassadors from Nottingham, talked about why she applied to be an ambassador: “I’ve already have lots of friends who have graduated, and one or two years out they don’t want to be vets anymore – why is that? Is that an admissions problem, is that a vet schools problem, is that a problem in the profession? I want to see how we can change that, and work with the veterinary schools and the profession to measure expectations and prepare students for the future.”

Seth Kennerd from the RVC added: “It’s important that we as a profession look to the future and not only embrace change, but become champions of it. We must work together to find, create and strengthen innovative technologies and ideas so that graduates know what they have at their disposal and are not afraid to use it.”

Eleanor Robertson, President of the AVS, said: “AVS has been excited about the Vet Futures project from day one and we want to play our part in making it a success. As students, our members are the future of this profession and they should therefore be active in shaping it. I was delighted at the level of interest from students from across all of the vet schools and very impressed by the ideas and novel thinking that came through during the training day.”