‘Positive momentum’ set to continue at NIVA

‘Positive momentum’ set to continue at NIVA

NIVA’s newly-appointed president, Aurelie Moralis has clear objectives in place around relationship-building and the need for improved communication within the profession, particularly when it comes to keeping young local vets engaged.

Aurelie Moralis has said that during her term in office as president of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA), she will be endeavouring to maintain the ‘positive momentum’ which began during the tenure of her predecessor, Alan Gordon.

Speaking to NI Veterinary Today recently, Aurelie – an experienced large animal vet who now works for Zoetis in Ireland – indicated that she intended to build on the legacy created by Alan’s year-long focus on ‘recruitment, retention and relationships’:

‘Both recruitment and retention of vets have been challenging in Northern Ireland for several years and the veterinary workforce is under increasing pressure as a result,’ conceded Aurelie. ‘With Brexit only weeks away and no deal in place year, there are uncertainties on increased need for certification for animals or animal products crossing the border as well as unknowns on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualification (PRPQ) of future EU vets in the UK.’

Aurelie, who herself moved to NI from her native Belgium in 2002 to pursue a career in large animal veterinary, points out that the workforce here has relied on such migration for very many years:

‘As a European citizen and having completed my veterinary degree and post-grad from two different European universities, I have been fortunate to have enjoyed a fulfilling veterinary career in Northern Ireland so far,’ she says. ‘As president of NIVA for this year, I want to continue to lobby on behalf of our members for the government to continue to recognise existing MRPQ legislation through a transitional arrangement that would mitigate against a sudden reduction in the veterinary workforce here after March.’

With that objective in mind, Aurelie joined NIVA junior vice-president, Susan Cunningham and the AVSPNI’s Paul Crawford to meet with the independent Migration Advisory Committee in February to lobby once again for the inclusion of veterinary surgeons on the ‘shortage of occupation’ list.

Aurelie Moralis re-located to Northern Ireland in July 2002, a mere fortnight after her graduation from the University of Ghent in Belgium. While her heart was set on a career in large animal care, that was a difficult proposition in her home country where many vets opt to work for themselves rather than organise into group practices.

During her university years, Aurelie had become friendly with NI vet, Melanie Spahn and it was Melanie who told her about an available position at Karen Hunter’s Gortlands practice. Aurelie spent six months at the Belfast practice but she has always loved the rural life and was keen to find a position outside the city.

A chance meeting with equine vet, Inge D’Haese led to word of a vacancy for a farm animal vet at Rathfriland and Aurelie landed the job in 2003. She spent 11 years in the post, during which time she married local man, Mark McEvoy and had two children. Mark’s family background is in farming and he runs his own cattle foot-trimming business.

During her time at Rathfriland, Aurelie began to establish strong relationships with representatives in the pharmaceutical industry and she eventually had the opportunity to do some consultancy work for Elanco Animal Health.

‘That got me thinking, I enjoyed the work and so when I got the opportunity to work with Zoetis, I took it,’ recalls Aurelie.

She started in 2014 as area vet manager offering technical support to customers in Northern Ireland. That lasted for two years before she was offered a secondment to a role in which she supplied technical leadership across the UK in reproduction, udder health and lameness. At the same time, she was studying at UCD for her dairy herd health certificate, which she attained in January last year.

Currently, Aurelie is on another secondment, this time in the RoI, where she has diversified into technical and marketing leadership and covers Zoetis’s entire ruminant portfolio.

Aurelie is very clear around her personal objectives for the next 12 months as NIVA president.

In line with Alan’s vision for the Association, she will be focused on continuing to improve relationships and communication, particularly between NIVA and younger members of the local veterinary sector:

‘We have a lot of members in the Young Veterinary Network (YVN) and they get a number of years membership at a reduced rate,’ says Aurelie. ‘That helps, but we are finding that once they get past those years, they seem to drift off. What I am keen to do is engage more with them and try to understand what their pinch points are and how we can make things more attractive for these members.’

With that in mind, a survey has been circulated to both NIVA and YVN members recently and the results of that exercise will help inform the Association’s planning going forward.

‘I also saw last year that the number of people on council had gone down, so we have recruited seven new council members from diverse backgrounds. We noticed, for example, that there is very little equine representation on council, but that’s going to be very important to have with Brexit just around the corner.’

In terms of wider policy, Aurelie acknowledges antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as ‘one of the greatest challenges’ to both animal and human health. Flagging the government’s recently released five-year national action plan for tackling AMR, Aurelie adds:

‘As an association, it’s our duty to support our members to understand how to move forward considering this and implementing the mantra of, ‘as little as possible and as much as necessary’…One challenge for the veterinary profession can be communication with our clients and understanding what drives them to implement change, such as the adoption of a health plan. An effective plan would be likely to result in increased animal health welfare, productivity and consequently, also reduce the need for antimicrobials. I would like to see this topic covered in at least one of our CPD meetings during the year.’

Forthcoming CPD for NIVA members will include a speaker at the spring meeting on ‘motivational interview techniques as a means of decreasing antimicrobial drug use in animals’.

 With so much on her work agenda, Aurelie concedes that it can be difficult to find time away from work issues:

‘I’m very fortunate in that we live close to the Mournes and the sea and any spare time that I have I like to spend outdoors with my family and my rescued dog, Luna,’ she says.

‘I think that for myself, I will be working on short-term goals. Within Zoetis, I want to continue working on things like leadership skills and commercial acumen whilst continuing to develop my technical skills. Beyond that, it’s hard to know what role will be out there for me. It’s very difficult to know where you’ll be in four or five years’ time, but if I see an opportunity, I tend to just take it. That’s very much how I live my life.’