2017 June - President's Report

I was lucky enough to have been able to attend the International Conference on Avian Herpetological and Exotic mammal medicine (ICARE 2017) in Venice during May to add to my continuing education.  It was shorter than I had hoped for my first trip to Europe, but travelling with my friend and colleague, Dr Brendan Carmel, the networking with the absolute best in the world in their field, and the setting all made the trip more than worthwhile. 

Ever since ICARE began in Europe I have longed to attend and immerse myself in the cutting edge science of one of my favourite areas of veterinary medicine.  And I have to admit that it was with some sense of antipodean inferiority complex I picked out the presentations that would be most useful to me.

I learned quite a lot.  And as it often is at veterinary conferences for me, not all of it was in the presentation rooms. 

I quickly learned that I was not alone – of the nearly 700 delegates, about 20 came from Australia.  Not just as delegates either – Australians were disproportionately over-represented when it came to presenter/km-travelled-to-get-there as well!

While the material was outstanding and the setting seductive, I quickly came to the realisation that we are not somehow “behind” the rest of the world in the veterinary care of reptiles, birds and exotic mammals.  We do these things just as well here in Australia as anywhere else in the world. 

I really looked forward to presentations in reptile anaesthesia, one area of particular interest to me.  Literally the leaders of the field were presenting and I had hoped to take a giant leap forward in my own techniques and understanding.  What I did learn though was that we are doing things here in Australia in this field, and many others fields of veterinary medicine for non-traditional pets, at a world-class standard.

So, how did we get there? 

It is my personal opinion that there are several contributing factors that have led to our success on the world stage as animal health professionals:  our collegial attitude and our passion immediately spring to mind.  More practically though, our profession’s commitment to continuing, lifelong learning facilitated by excellent support structures like the AVA, and in particular their Special Interest Groups, ensure that we all can keep up-to-date with the advances in all areas of veterinary science.  Whether it is in Venice with birds, reptiles and exotic mammals, or on the Gold Coast at FSAVA later this year, the cross-pollination of ideas and connection to networks of like-minded veterinarians enhances the lessons we learn in the presentations.

Despite my good fortune to be able to travel this year, there have been many years where, with the responsibilities of owning my own practice, I have not been able to attend conferences in person.  But even in those years I found there is still ample opportunity to access quality continuing education through my local branch of the AVA, or through the growing number of online webinars and short courses.  It was not difficult, with very little planning, and virtually no cost, to get more than the necessary number of continuing education hours.  While there are many ancillary benefits to attending conferences in person, it is not too onerous to get the required CE in other ways.

It is not an exaggeration to say that continuing education (aka Continuing Professional Development or CPD) is at the heart of our profession.  It is vital to our personal development as individuals and as veterinarians, our ability to promote animal welfare through ensuring competence, our ability to protect the public, and, possibly most importantly, it provides a foundation for the trust bestowed upon us by the public.

When I read through the list above I see that it is basically the list of legislative objectives of the Board.  This is why CPD is so important to the profession and to the Board.

So, next time you are thinking about what CPD you have completed during the previous year think also about what CPD you want to do for the coming year or years.  It becomes even easier if you make a written plan.  If we are to retain the respect and trust of the public and contribute effectively to animal welfare we need to make the most of the opportunities for CPD that are available to us.

Mark Simpson