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British Veterinary Association

The British Veterinary Association Congress took place in London from 29 September to October 1

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Veterinary Pharmacists Group is open to all pharmacists who are engaged in, or actively considering engaging in, the preparation or supply of agricultural chemicals, veterinary medicines and allied products. Other pharmacists may be granted membership at the discretion of the group committee.

Contact: Lorraine Fearon in the Society’s practice division (tel 020 7572 2409; e-mail

Challenges for veterinary profession as women begin to outnumber men

Carol Black

Dame Carol Black: long-term human resource issue of new gender mix

Changing animal health and welfare requirements are placing new demands on the veterinary profession, both locally and internationally. At the same time, the profession itself is changing, in terms of its composition and its members’ expectations. This year’s British Veterinary Association congress examined the nature of these changes and the opportunities they present.

In her plenary Wooldridge memorial lecture, Dame Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians, noted that the gender balance in medicine and pharmacy had changed dramatically in recent years. In veterinary surgery, too, women now outnumber men in all age groups under 40 years, having previously been in the minority. “Where have the men gone and why have the health professions lost their attractiveness to them,” she wondered. Gender differences include the “three Ts” — talents, tastes and temperaments. Dame Carol said she believed women to be better communicators than men and to show more empathy in caring for patients. The shift in the gender mix could well raise long-term human resource issues, for balancing professional and family commitments means that the demand for shift working and job sharing could increase in the future. This would require far more formal procedures for handing over responsibility at changeover times.

In her presentation, Lynne Hill, immediate past president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said the changing graduate profile appeared to indicate women might comprise 90 per cent of the profession within 10 years. The effects could include more vets being required to do the same volume of work (due to women taking career breaks) and an accelerated move away from large animal practice. Ms Hill suggested that vets should communicate with other professions and see how they are dealing with the problem.

Challenges of vaccination

Vaccination is seen as the answer to many of the world’s animal health problems but there are difficulties both in developing vaccines and applying them appropriately. In a session entitled “Just a little prick? The challenges of vaccination”, the challenges associated with bovine tuberculosis, avian influenza and diseases resulting from the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme were considered. Glyn Hewinson, head of the tuberculosis research group at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency, Weybridge, said that the project to produce a bovine TB vaccine was long and complex. He said that a cattle vaccine should have a high level of protection against infection and be easy to administer. The well-known human BCG vaccine would probably not suffice in this case. The causative organism Mycobacterium bovis is considered to be a “stealth pathogen”, ie, it is not known what constitutes protective immunity. Mr Hewinson spoke about a possible badger vaccine to prevent the transmission of the disease to cattle but this would only be of use if a significant proportion of bovine TB were due to badgers. He said although the development of a bovine TB vaccine was on course, many obstacles still needed to be overcome.

Remco Schrijver, of the animal sciences group at Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands, said the goals for dealing with avian influenza were to prevent the disease if possible and limit its spread if not. The problem is exacerbated by migratory birds and densely packed poultry flocks. Appropriate action includes monitoring wild life, biosecurity measures, culling and, increasingly, vaccination of at-risk populations.

Susan Shaw, from the School of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, discussed whether vaccination could control the introduction of imported companion animal diseases. With the expansion of the EU and ever wider travel of dogs (and cats), it was difficult to keep up with changing microbes. Ms Shaw said that in the period 2000–06 more than 200,000 dogs had travelled into the UK, There are major technical hurdles in the design and development of new vaccines, eg, for protozoal diseases. It depends on the profile of the disease. Even where there is a vaccine it is uncertain whether all animals would respond effectively for there are species and strain variations, and travelling animals could introduce more virulent strains Breed and age affect animals’ response, too. It is vital that post-vaccination, pre-travel blood test results for rabies are retained to show serological response and prove that the dog or cat has been vaccinated.

Joint venture partnerships

Tom Mowlem, professional services director and joint venture partner at Companion Care (Bournemouth) Ltd, a two-vet, small animal practice, outlined an interesting business model based on a formula borrowed from the optics industry. Companion Care is one of two companies currently offering joint venture partnerships. The first joint venture veterinary practices were opened in 2001 and by the end of 2006 will number between 75 and 80. Each practice is a limited company with practice partners being employed directors and shareholders. Their capital is matched by the joint venture partner, which has input to the way the business is run and could charge a management fee. It might provide accounting, marking and IT support. Mr Mowlem said that although corporate businesses have not made significant inroads into companion animal practice in recent years, he believed that as a result of clinical requirements, financial pressures and changing demographics they represent the future.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10002340

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