New RCVS President vows to listen

New RCVS President vows to listen

The new President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has vowed to spend her year in office listening to veterinary professionals and communities across the UK, to better understand the issues affecting them.

Dr Melissa Donald MRCVS told the College’s 2022 Annual General Meeting in Westminster the veterinary community was relatively small but punched well above its weight.

Melissa, who  graduated from the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine in 1987,said: “When I looked this up in June, there were over 300,000 doctors registered with the General Medical Council. We, the veterinary profession, have around 30,000 registered with the RCVS to look after farmed, pet, lab animal, exotic, zoo and wildlife species. In other words, all animals EXCEPT the human, and we protect humans too, with public health work!

“Even excluding farmed fish, over 300 million animals are being cared for by 30,000 professional veterinary surgeons and their teams. That is the scale of our small but mighty community. Being part of a community doesn’t mean we all have to be clones of each other, but a group that can agree to disagree, and is there for each other in times of need.

“We are part of many different community circles: family, school, online, college, work and hobbies to name a few, and many interconnect with each other just like a massive Venn diagram. Some people wish to keep the circles separate, but to me they are all intrinsically connected, and we are the sum of each part of our lives, and that is what makes us who we are. Of course, this doesn’t mean we have to be everything to everyone 24/7, as ‘me time’ is precious, and finding that space to breathe is what helps us feel grounded.

“With this close proximity to each other, communication is key. My mother has offered me many wise words over the years, most frequently being ‘engage brain before opening mouth’ but just as important as speaking is listening and actually hearing what is being said. So, over this year I will try to get out and about as much as possible, focus on hearing what our community is saying and engage in many conversations as we work together. After all, I am the ‘nomadic’ president, of no fixed abode, at least until we all get to move into the new headquarters in Hardwick Street.”

The new President started her own career as a food animal intern at Iowa State University in the United States before moving into mixed veterinary practice in Ayrshire in 1990. Over the next 25 years, Melissa and her husband Kenny developed Oaks Veterinary Centre into a small animal practice with a focus on dentistry.

She was first elected to Council in 2016, was re-elected in 2020 and has served on a number of committees including the Education Committee and Finance & Resources Committee, and, since 2019, has served as Chair of the Standards Committee.

She has also been President of the British Veterinary Association’s Scottish branch and the Ayrshire Veterinary Association and, outside of work, enjoys running, and caring for her dogs, cats and sheep.

She concluded her speech (which is available to read in full  HERE) by thanking those who had stood behind her throughout her life and her veterinary career including her parents, family, teachers, university and extra-mural studies (EMS) mentors and work and RCVS colleagues.