Greg Dickens

Greg Dickens

Greg Dickens joined Cambridge-based innovation consultancy Innovia Technology as an intern immediately after gaining his veterinary degree in 2010. Ten years on, he is still at Innovia, where he is now an experienced innovation consultant and strategy adviser.

I’ve been taking things apart and putting them back together for as long as I can remember. I’m interested in fixing systems, and the more complicated the system, the more fun it is to fix. That’s what attracted me to veterinary science in the first place – animals are incredibly complicated systems. I joined Innovia straight from vet school because I needed a style of working that wasn’t available in a veterinary job at that time. I was training with the Great Britain national cycling squad and needed a role that would let me be flexible around the hours I needed to do on the bike. I was the first large-scale life scientist (i.e. not a biochemist) that Innovia employed, and we now have three vets and a couple of medics on the team.

How could new technology help the veterinary profession better serve the needs of animal health and welfare?

My primary passion in innovation is finding ways to meet needs using new technology, be they clinical needs or consumer needs. New technology can help us meet these needs in a more efficient, less risky, less damaging way than old technology. For example, you can detect lameness in a horse by recording the sound of its hoof beats. All you need is a microphone and some pretty good software, and you can pick up signs of lameness much more quickly than any clinical examination. You can do the same with sheep using an accelerometer on a collar. As soon as you have acceleration data, you can tell whether it’s lame or not – It’s even been shown to work in sheep that are lying down. Monitoring animals is a need that will be much easier to meet with new technology.

But smart surgery and smart diagnostics are going to be big, too. Smart diagnostics is all about new ways to gather and assess data and new ways to make decisions based on that data. There will be some automation in this, using things like trend tracking software that will flag a problem if the readings are changing in a particular direction. As for smart surgery, there are many possibilities along a spectrum, from technology to guide or track a surgeon and alert them if they make a mistake, all the way to fully automated technology that completes elements of surgery under just the watchful eye of a human surgeon. There are pros and cons to each.

It’s also worth noting that the functionality of our smartphones is tremendously underused. There’s huge potential for much better automated data gathering via smartphones, and also for guiding owners to use their phone to gather data that could help vets reach a diagnosis. The things you could do with a good smartphone are amazing.

What would you say to vets who are perhaps a bit anxious about the impact technology could have on their professional lives?

Technology is not something that will magically cure all of your problems, nor is it something that will destroy your job and practice. Technology is very much just a better tool – and any change to your business will be based on how well you use that better tool. It’s not actually that scary, but I think all vets should be thinking carefully about it.

Take telemedicine, for example. This technology hasn’t changed the value of your opinion, and it hasn’t changed what you do with data, how you make diagnoses, what the right treatments are. All it has done is change the boundaries of your practice – the physical walls of a practice have become much less relevant.

What advice would you give to someone who is keen to encourage an innovation culture/mindset in their workplace?

Two things – first, always start with a need. If you don’t identify a clear need, all you’ll have is a group of people coming up with lots of different ideas that can’t be compared relative to one another. No one knows which is the most valuable at that point in time, so nothing gets done because no one knows what should be done. Frame your needs clearly, and then you can begin the innovation process.

Second, on another level, do practices really need to be innovative in the traditional sense of the word? There’s a tendency to think of innovation as inventing a completely new way of doing something in order to unlock value. Practices don’t need to do this. They have the opportunity to look around and cherry-pick the very best things that are working for others – other practices, other businesses, other professions. Using concepts that are tested and proven to solve your need is a form of innovation.

But the other thing to say is that the veterinary process is an innovation process. Taking a history, doing a full clinical examination, coming up with a diagnosis and looking for treatments is exactly the same as the innovation process for a business.

Why is it important for vets to be proactive about innovation?

I feel very strongly that vets have to be proactive about innovation. Just because you are doing the best job you have ever done, doesn’t mean you are doing the best job you could do.

And from a business point of view, you must keep evolving and innovating. It’s the same as for living organisms – if you stop evolving and stop innovating, you’ll get out-competed and die. It’s completely impossible for a business to survive without updating itself and its services.

What are you most proud of and why?

Professionally, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve helped demonstrate the value of life scientists, especially vets, in innovation. Innovia initially rejected my application – they only wanted to hire physicists and engineers. I persuaded them that veterinary science was engineering for living systems, and they employed me. That was 10 years ago, and since then I’ve helped three vets within Innovia, and more vets in other companies, understand the cross-industry value of their degrees.

On a personal level, last year I raised £8,000 for insect conservation doing a sponsored challenge. I wanted to highlight the impact of neonicotinoid pesticide use on bees: a tiny amount of neonicotinoid doesn’t kill a bee, but it causes it to forget its way home, so it just flies and flies until it drops from exhaustion. I wanted to raise awareness of that plight and raise money for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Buglife. I managed to stay on the move continuously for 68 hours before I passed out!

Guen Bradbury

Guen Bradbury

Innovation consultant at Innovia Technology

Guen Bradbury has had a varied career since she graduated from Cambridge in 2011 with an MA in pharmacology alongside her veterinary degree. She’s been a small animal practitioner, an anaesthetist, a lecturer, a researcher and a rabbit behaviourist. She now works as an innovation consultant for Cambridge-based consultancy Innovia Technology.

What does an innovation consultant do? That’s the million-dollar question! Basically Innovia Technology supports companies with their innovation processes. It’s not feasible for even the biggest multinational companies to employ experts across every single area that they might face challenges in, so what we provide is people with a lot of expertise and experience in innovation from a whole host of backgrounds and specialties, who have worked with lots of different companies. We can draw on our experience of what other people are doing, or we may have solved similar problems before, and we have a very structured approach to taking an innovation from a need to a market-ready product. We help companies work through this process.

Does your veterinary training help you with your role?

I think vets have the skills they need for roles in innovation. To start with, we’re a selected population, chosen for our curiosity and desire to fix things. Every day of our working lives is about flexibly responding to problems. Then we’re trained as consultants – for animals, yes, not innovation but the skill set and process are the same. There’s a knowledge-based element, there’s the interaction with clients element, and there’s the diagnosis and treatment element. All of these are very relevant. For instance, as a vet, I have an in-depth knowledge of how body systems work. So, if I’m thinking about how something might interact with the body, whether it’s a consumer product, a cosmetic or a medication, I’ve got a good understanding of first principles and I can use this to predict what the outcome might be.

I’ve also got training and experience in taking a full history from an animal-owning client, which can equally be applied to talking to a client in a big company. I can examine a problem in a very structured way, just as I would have approached the examination of a patient, and reach a diagnosis using all the information I’ve collected. Then I can think about possible treatment options, consider costs, the effort required, and so on, to reach a solution that is right for that specific situation. Veterinary consultation skills are extremely transferable to any sort of consulting work.

There’s the problem-solving aspect, too. I’ve had a lot of practice in evaluating what I need to know to help me solve the biggest problem first. That way I can prioritise the order in which I solve problems and approach a situation in the most efficient way to make sure I reach the right outcome.

What barriers to innovation do vets face?

I actually think the term ‘innovation’ itself can be a barrier. It’s so closely associated with technology and technology is often seen as a threat. That’s a real shame – innovation isn’t just tech, it’s also new ways of working or of doing things.

Another barrier is practice life. Typically, even if the managers of a practice are trying to take a long-term view, the day-to-day focus in practice is on getting things done in the short term. Innovation comes a long way down the priorities list, and unless an organisation encourages buy-in and creates a social opportunity around the innovation process, people won’t engage.

There is also a tendency to focus too much on ‘an innovation’, rather than on a need or a problem. Vets aren’t trained to think about how they would use an innovation, they’re trained to see a need or a problem and work out how to solve it.

I think that talking about innovation as a core competence at vet school might help. Thinking that we might be good at being a vet, but that we’re not innovative doesn’t really add up to me. We have the skills we need, and creating an environment that helps us realise this would help us be more innovative.

What advice would you give to someone who is keen to encourage an innovation culture/mindset in their workplace?

Talk – and listen – to everyone. Innovation in an organisation is often approached in one of two ways – from the top down, or from the bottom up. Neither works. With the first, managers decide that something needs to be done to solve a problem, but the problem they identify may not be the problem being felt ‘on the ground’. So either people aren’t motivated to do anything about it, or the wrong problem gets solved. With the bottom-up approach, the right problem might be identified, but unless there’s a system in place for raising it within the practice, nothing gets done.

So, ideally, you need to have a very open discussion with a spectrum of people. Hold a meeting, perhaps with someone other than a manager running it. Set clear ground rules and flatten any workplace hierarchies so that everyone feels able to speak up. Create a team that can work together to identify a problem that needs solving, assess how this could be done and test possible solutions. That way you have people who have bought in to the process and a team that can identify and solve problem after problem – and in doing so you’ve created an innovation culture in your workplace.

Why is it important for vets to be proactive about innovation?

The coronavirus pandemic is a really good example of how external events drive change and its impact on the vet profession could be immense. For instance, clients who find themselves unemployed after the current situation eases may decide that pet insurance is an unaffordable luxury. Pet insurance underpins many vet services and, without it, our financial model begins to crack. We could find ourselves facing vet unemployment ­– something that we’ve not experienced for many years. We need to be proactive now in thinking of ways to continue serving our clients  – whether that is through new technology, new ways of working, or new ways of helping them pay for vet services. The pandemic will undoubtedly drive innovation, and, now more than ever, it is vital that vets are proactive about it. If you can do it well now, you will have an advantage in the future.

What are you most proud of and why?

It’s totally non-innovation related! I’m really proud of the fact that I published a textbook on rabbit behaviour. It’s a field where there’s never going to be any money in it – people aren’t going to pay to understand why their rabbit bites them! I was lucky in that I was really interested in rabbit behaviour at a time when there were no resources available on it, so I could be the first. It’s opened lots of doors for me in a really interesting area.

George Gunn

George Gunn

Founder and partner of Stonehaven Consulting, a global company offering management consultancy services and partnership to large and small life sciences businesses.

I didn’t plan to spend my career in industry. I grew up on the Shetland Isles; my father was a shepherd, we lived in a tied cottage and, materially, my family had very little. I wasn’t really aware of this as in so many ways we had everything we needed. After qualifying from Edinburgh, I worked in mixed practice and intended to spend my life as a general practitioner. Circumstances intervened and I had to leave practice. I spent six years as a ministry vet, which taught me a lot about big organisations – and also that there is life for vets outside of practice – before I joined the animal health industry.

My industry career began in the UK but I went on to work for companies in Europe and the USA. In 2003, I joined Novartis as Head of Animal Health, North America, before going on to be president and CEO of Novartis Animal Health worldwide from 2004. Subsequently, I headed up the Novartis Consumer Health Division and managed Corporate Social Responsibility for the Novartis Corporation before I retired in 2015.

Stonehaven Consulting logo

What are you most proud of and why?

I’ve done lots of things in my life that I’m happy with, and I’ve been very lucky in my career, but what I’m most proud of is, honestly, qualifying as a vet. It has been the ticket to everything that I’ve done since, and without it, I wouldn’t have done any of those other things. I never had any great ambition to head up a company, but I found that I could do it. A vet degree equips you with so many transferable skills.

Do you think vets are good at innovation? What barriers to innovation do they face?

Like every profession or group of people, there’s a range – some vets are naturally good at innovation, some are not, although that’s not to say that they’re not good at what they do. Innovation isn’t necessarily about making huge leaps. In the pharmaceutical industry, innovation is all about how to sell more product, make more profit for the company, and enhance value to shareholders, but this doesn’t just mean making great pharmaceutical breakthroughs. It can be simple ideas, like new packaging or ways of dispensing a product.

I do think that being in practice can dampen vets’ innovative side, particularly if you’re not naturally innovative. Practice can be routine, you can end up doing the same things, again and again, so you’re far more likely to get a bit ground down by routine work and not see opportunities for innovation.

What advice would you give to a vet who has an idea for an innovation and wants to take it to the next level?

For those looking to start a business, the first thing you need is excellent technology – a sound idea. Then you need a professional business plan. This is the biggest stumbling block that start-ups encounter. Very few people can put a good business plan together, predicting what it will cost to get their product to market and then what the return could be once it’s there. It’s tough and it takes time, but there are people who can help, so my advice would be to seek them out.

Also, I would say “talk to your customers”. If I were launching a new brand, would I do so without finding out what my customers wanted? Of course not! I’d use focus groups, surveys, discussions. Use your audience – your current clients, your potential customers – to find out what they want, and then give them what they want.

What are your top tips for start-ups that are looking for funding or investment?

Take the local route first – follow the ‘3Fs’ of finding funding and approach ‘family, friends and fools’ initially. These people are more likely to be willing to offer you a loan but not want a stake in your company in return. Then look for local innovation funds. You might be surprised what’s out there. Only once you’re beyond the proof-of-concept stage and at the point of taking on employees, should you start looking for what is loosely termed ‘venture capital’ funding. However, this funding will be dilutive for the originator’s shareholding – venture capital investors will want an equity stake in your company.

Also, be aware that chasing international funding rarely works.

What innovation do you think will offer the greatest opportunity to better the health and welfare of animals?

I think there will be two major developments in the animal health field in the next few years. First, there will be a revolution in animal health biotech just as there has been in human health. In the past, animal health has bumped along on the coat tails of human pharma, but now a number of the big human pharmaceutical companies have separated off their animal health interests. This independence is a good thing, but it has its downsides too. For instance, the animal health industry used to benefit indirectly from the £40 billion spent on human health innovation each year by the former owners of these animal health companies: separating the two industries means this no longer happens. The animal health industry spends about £3 billion annually on innovation and the big animal health companies need innovation to keep growing. They do a brilliant job of what they’re already doing, but they need to bring in innovation and will look to animal health biotechs for this.

Second, there are huge opportunities to improve animal health and welfare through increasing digitisation. We have greater ability than ever before to identify and monitor companion and farm animals individually, enabling us to improve disease prevention and enhance individual animal outcomes. Monitors allow us to pick up changes in an animal’s movements, rumination, breathing – we can identify an individual that is unwell simply by checking our phones! Monitoring can indicate when a cow is coming into oestrus, so she can be served at the optimum time – and because you know the length of the oestrous cycle, you can predict when she should come into oestrus again. If she doesn’t, she’s almost certainly pregnant, so do you really need to put her through the stress of handling and examination for the purposes of pregnancy diagnosis? If a machine can do it better, it’s better for animal welfare – and it could change vets’ lives too.

The profession has understated what can be achieved by measuring outcomes. Vets should be leading the field on animal monitoring, helping their clients gather and use data to improve outcomes for their animals. It will bring about more and more innovation, and I really believe that this is where we should go.

Jolyon Martin

Jolyon Martin PhD

Founder and Head of Business Development at PetMedix

Dr Jolyon Martin is one of the founders of PetMedix, a Cambridge-based start-up taking the cutting edge of human medical science and using it to develop species-specific antibody therapies for dogs and cats. His PhD research underpins the company’s technology, and he has presented his findings in the UK, USA, and China.

PetMedix logo

Life has a funny way of steering our course. As a researcher passionate about animal health, I needed to find a new PhD project at very short notice when, fortuitously, Professor Allan Bradley explained to me his plan to bring the latest human medical science to bear for companion animals. Allan pioneered the field of mouse transgenics and its use to develop therapeutic monoclonal antibodies – my PhD focused on applying this research to dogs. Fast-forward five years and here I am with PetMedix, working hard to develop therapeutic antibodies for dogs and cats.

I grew up surrounded by dogs and the importance of their health and wellbeing was ingrained from birth. My mother made up one of her cavaliers as a show champion just hours before giving birth to me, much to the surprise and confusion of the midwife-trained head judge. She always emphasised the importance of factoring in heart scores and syringomyelia test results into her breeding, much more than type or show results.

What are you most proud of and why?

Professionally, it has to be being a co-founder of PetMedix alongside the experienced and highly-successful serial entrepreneurs Allan Bradley and Tom Weaver. Our investors really believe in transforming animal health and we have an incredible team of scientists whose combined expertise is helping to bring this dream to fruition. Plus, it’s great fun!

Personally, I was a ballroom dancer as a student and the proudest moment was captaining my university team to national champions as part of an undefeated season. The way everyone pulled together, both in training and competition, was incredible to be part of.

What innovation has got you to where you are today?

The species-specific monoclonal antibody approach of PetMedix relies on the cumulative efforts of many scientists over a number of decades, rather than on one single innovation. The entire process, from platform development through to drug discovery, relies on novel applications of methods and tools from molecular biology, genome engineering, immunology, artificial intelligence, and a range of other fields. This is partly why it hasn’t been done before, in spite of the obvious need and huge potential benefits. The breadth of knowledge required to develop and apply the PetMedix platform is substantial, but by using this approach it will be possible to develop therapies with far greater health benefits to patients than antibodies developed by older, simpler approaches.

What innovation has the greatest opportunity to change the health and welfare of animals?

I do truly believe that therapeutic antibodies will have the same transformative effect on animal health as they have had in human medicine. There are more than 80 FDA-approved antibody therapeutics in human health, treating a wide range of diseases that are held in common with dogs and cats, and this is a real chance for veterinary medicine to benefit from three decades and billions of dollars of R&D effort in human pharma. We know what works; we just need to apply that now.

What changes do you see in the animal health industry, and how might they impact veterinary medicine?

There are two themes that come up consistently: the changing nature of our relationship with our pets, and the changing attitude within the industry towards innovation. There is a greater demand from owners for higher quality animal care – and a combination of young start-ups and industry giants are starting to address this. Beyond novel therapies, innovations in diagnostics (be it genetic testing or otherwise) and an increased focus on quality of life are driving things in a direction that can only stand to benefit the animal, and by extension their owners and the vet team who care for them.

What can we look forward to next from PetMedix?

We are at the research and development phase so are a little way off approved therapies, but are actively looking to engage with the veterinary community throughout the process.

PetMedix has also commissioned a survey of vets to find out where the real unmet needs are, and we are always happy to hear from vets throughout the industry so we can work together to improve pet health.

Gudrun Ravetz

Gudrun Ravetz

Head Veterinary Officer Simplyhealth Professionals, Past President of the British Veterinary Association

Having dropped a grade in my Maths A Level I nearly didn’t get into Vet School but, thanks to the University of Liverpool, I graduated in 2002. An inability to say no and always looking for new things has meant I have had a portfolio career, spending most of my time in various types of small animal clinical work, as well as management and consultancy. I completed a Graduate Diploma in Law in 2009/10 and was President of the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons in 2012. 

In 2015 I had the privilege of joining the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Officer Team and was President in 2016/17. The BVA work has been the highlight of my working career. It was humbling, motivating, and exciting to represent the veterinary profession and work with an amazing team at such an important time for the profession. 

Ultimately though, I am happiest running the fells, biking the lanes and swimming in the lakes of Cumbria.

What are you most proud of, and why?

There are lots of things that I am proud of and most of these have been a collective effort. This includes the amazing work of the BVA team and Officers that I was involved in when I was there, particularly around the EU exit and collaborative research with the University of Exeter looking at workforce retention and recruitment, with a particular focus on gender discrimination.

With regards to a personal achievement that I am proud of – in the summer of 2014 I swam the length of all the lakes in Cumbria, including the 18 kilometres of Windermere. While I could not have done it without the support of others, this was a feat of sheer determination and commitment. Absolutely no technology was involved. It was just me, some friends and a lake for many hours of training in a stunning environment. I felt a real sense of ‘put your mind to it, focus, and you will achieve.’

What is the biggest change you have seen during your career?

The biggest change has been around the types and styles of ownership of veterinary businesses – particularly the growth of large multisite veterinary businesses, with many not being owned or run by vets. The speed of this change has been fascinating to watch. Having worked for Banfield in 2004, I saw a different way of doing things early on with many impressive things happening and with the veterinary team at the centre of them. However, in one sense, although the ownership style and money flow has radically altered, the way of doing business has not. There has not been a significant shift in how practices are run, how veterinary team employees work, and, while new services may be offered to clients, the manner in which they are offered has not changed. I am waiting for there to be positive innovation and disruption in how we offer our services and how our veterinary team work. I believe this can be a real, progressive and positive change for the profession and the animals and clients we serve.

What innovation has the greatest opportunity to change the health and welfare of animals? 

One of the biggest ways we can improve animal health and welfare is through evidence based on sound scientific principles. Positive health and welfare outcomes must be evidence-based to have a meaningful, credible and long-lasting impact on animal health and welfare. While there are great initiatives taking data from practices to give us meaningful evidence, the majority of data points, particularly from practices, are not captured in a consistent and uniform manner. Adoption of innovation that allows for a sharing of common and consistent data that the profession could collectively own for the good of animal health and welfare (not financial benefit), along with the people power and funding to turn this into open-access evidence, could have a huge effect on providing more positive health and welfare outcomes for animals. Once this has happened, innovation, and the adoption of it, would allow for instant and easy remote access to this information and could have a really positive effect on animals’ health and welfare. 

How could vets better meet the needs of today’s clients and patients?

I think we need to facilitate putting clients more in control of how they can engage with the veterinary profession and their animals’ treatment. We need to adopt innovation that makes things easy for clients – remote booking of appointments, access to their animals’ medical records, easy access points to communicate with the veterinary team, and easy access to evidence-based information tailored to meet the needs of their animals. Instead of being concerned about the rise of access to information, we need to embrace a clients’ interest in their animals and be there to help them navigate good information from bad. We need to be the hub of evidence that enhances the vet-client relationship. While the face-to-face vet-client relationship is invaluable, we also need to engage with ways of making sure we can continue that relationship remotely. 

Are you a technophile or a technophobe? 

I think I am a technophile in that I use and enjoy technology that enhances my everyday personal and work life. For me, the key point is that it has to positively enhance my life. Working this bit out is the tricky part – hours reading mindless stuff on social media is not an life-enhancement, but gaining immediate access to new evidence-based reports via social media is. As a profession, whilst we must engage with innovation and technology, we also need to look at outcomes and make sure these are evidence-based and positive. 

Innovation and technology has led to amazing and positive advances, but we need to be constantly questioning. Our skills as scientists must always be questioning the evidence and the outcomes, and our unique skills in animal health and welfare must always be questioning the benefit for the animal especially from the animals’ point of view. While health benefits are absolutely important, around innovation, we must keep our focus on welfare. We must ask ourselves – Is this in the best interests of the animals’ welfare, even if it improves health? It strays into the “because we can, should we” argument and, while we improve our knowledge and adoption of technology, this needs to be coupled with ongoing education and discussion about the welfare and ethics of it.

Alex Avery

Dr Alex Avery BVSc

Our Pets Health


I am a small animal vet working on the other side of the world in New Zealand. I graduated from Bristol in 2006 and after three years in mixed practice set off on a world tour that ended up stopping in NZ, where I have been ever since apart from a two-year stint in a busy companion practice on England’s south coast.

I have always been passionate about trying to educate my clients as fully as possible, and it doesn’t take much time on the internet to come across some really harmful pet health information, advice, and recommendations. With the idea behind having been bubbling away in the background for a number of years, I finally launched the website, YouTube channel and podcast in November 2017. Our Pets Health provides complete veterinary healthcare advice via creative and innovative series of videos and podcasts explaining and answering questions on how you can support your cat and dog to allow them to live healthier, happier lives.

What are you most proud of, and why?

Taking action! How many of us have had an idea and a strong desire to start some kind of project only for it to be filed away for another day when life wasn’t quite so busy (which never comes)?

The veterinary degree equips us with the ability to efficiently search out, consume and process a large amount of information. Life in practice then forces us to think outside the box and come up with solutions to a multitude of problems, due to the limitations of money, funds, expectations or expertise. I think this background is vital when it comes to embracing the challenges and opportunities of providing for the healthcare needs of pets from all demographics, in all corners of the globe.

I’m also proud to be part of such an amazing profession. The support and feedback I’ve received has personally made a huge difference, and I hope also demonstrates a recognition that there is a need for vets to engage with the wider pet-owning public to improve education.

How do you think that change in other industries will drive change in the veterinary profession?

I think the potential for significant disruption to the current veterinary service model is huge. From the software business, that has very much switched from a retail to subscription model, to the human health service, where video consultations are being introduced which allow diagnosis and treatments to be made without a patient having to physically visit the doctor.

Of course, not all developments in other industries can easily be applied to the veterinary profession. It is important, however, in my opinion, to pay close attention to all the different types of services our clients are accessing. The veterinary profession is as much a service industry as it is part of the health industry. While we must always put the needs of our patients first, if the profession is not able to adapt to client needs then there is a real risk a large proportion of the pet-owning public will simply stop engaging with vets for all but the most serious conditions. Instead, they could turn to alternative forms of health advice and treatment, to the detriment of their pet’s health.

Telemedicine is already making inroads in the profession and, despite reasonable objections regarding the appropriateness of this for all cases, it is something that I believe will continue to develop very rapidly. In the not too distant future, I would not be surprised if telemedicine in some form becomes the first point of contact that most clients and patients have with a veterinarian.

What innovation has the greatest opportunity to change the health and welfare of animals?

Increasing use and development of remote communication technologies (be that video, augmented reality or virtual reality), combined with the development of wearable or implantable technology, has the potential to impact the global pet population as a whole. Not only will it give more people than ever before access to quality veterinary services, but these developments will also allow us to detect all manner of diseases at a much earlier stage.

Early detection and intervention will allow us to offer improved, tailored care to our current patient base. It will also allow us to provide improved preventative health advice to people with no access to veterinary services, as well as “triage” patients whose owners would not otherwise engage with the traditional veterinary model until absolutely necessary.

How could vets better meet the needs of today’s clients and patients?

I think there needs to be a wider recognition of where our clients are seeking answers to their pet health questions. Everything from what food to feed and which parasite control to use, through to how they should be treating their cat’s kidney failure or dog’s arthritis. Even our most engaged clients are doing this.

While a pet owner who has already made the trip into the consult room has made an investment into building a relationship with you, it is still up to us to cement this by being the number one source of information. We also need to recognise that we are no longer the individual gatekeepers of this information. While vets are the only people who can diagnose and prescribe, all of the information surrounding any diagnosis and treatment, as well as that concerning preventative health, is in the public domain.

We should not be scared of this. If a client is given reliable, accurate information from an external source that fits the practice ethos, then they will have improved understanding as to why recommendations were made and compliance should be greatly improved. It will also reinforce the idea that we as vets, rather than internet forums, are the number one experts to consult and trust with the care of their pet.

This does not mean that all veterinary practices need to reinvent the wheel. If a clinic does not have the resources to produce their own content (likely due to a lack of time), then they should consider having a list of other resources for every common condition seen or preventative health recommendation made. There are plenty of valuable resources out there, they just don’t often make the first page of a Google search. Rather than simply being the source, we should also see one of our roles as the expert curators of information.

What can we look forward to next from Our Pets Health?

This year is certainly set up to be just as busy as the last. I launched a new podcast at the end of February. Podcasting is a medium that I have grown to really enjoy both producing and consuming. I believe it offers a much more intimate way to communicate compared to video or blog posts and is definitely something that practices could consider diving into.

I also have a number of collaborations lined up with a couple of other online veterinary creators. I hope that by combining forces we will be able to bring the message of evidence-based medicine to a wider audience. I am also working on a project to produce some client resources for practices to allow them to better engage their clients in the limited time that is generally available.

Anthony Chadwick

Anthony Chadwick

The Webinar Vet

An interview with Anthony Chadwick from The Webinar Vet.

I am a veterinary surgeon based in Liverpool. I qualified from the University of Liverpool in 1990 and passed my RCVS CertVD in 1995. I’ve spent most of my career in small animal practice in first opinion and also seeing referrals in dermatology and endocrinology. In 2010 I set up The Webinar Vet to make it easier for me and other vets to do their veterinary CPD. In those days nobody knew what a webinar was in the veterinary profession. Now it is one of the most common ways that vets and vet nurses learn.

What innovation has got you to where you are today?

I think it’s so important for the profession to look outwards. We don’t have all the answers and it is important to see what other professions and markets are doing. I went to an internet conference in January 2010 and met Steven Essa who is an expert on webinars. He helped me to get my first few webinars going and built a basic website for me. Had I not gone to this congress I probably wouldn’t have set up The Webinar Vet. The Webinar Vet was also bootstrapped and grew quickly. This was also possible because of great web tools like GoToWebinar, Amazon Web Services and Aweber which I didn’t need to develop and were cheap to buy. A similar business set up ten years prior might have cost several hundred thousand pounds. With any new project, it’s always worth developing it using off the shelf solutions and tools.

What exciting developments do you expect to see in the field next year?

I’ve been fascinated by the new developments in virtual reality and particularly mixed reality (the merging of real and virtual worlds). We’ve done some preliminary work developing anatomical models to help students learn the anatomy of common domestic animals using these amazing 3D tools. This whole field is expected to be massive in the next few years and feedback from vets, nurses and students has been amazing. I’m hoping that we can help to bring this technology to fruition in the veterinary field.

What innovation has the greatest opportunity to change health and welfare of animals?

In the next ten years there will be a revolution in human medicine and veterinary medicine, particularly in the field of targeted medicines, but also personalised medicine. Genomes of individuals will be investigated and disease risks discussed before they become a problem. Genome mapping can now be done for around £1,000. The first human genome cost $2.7 billion to map! In my own field of veterinary dermatology I was thrilled to see Zoetis bring out Lokivetmab as an injectable monoclonal antibody to IL31. This very elegant product is much more targeted than our old blunderbuss alternatives like corticosteroids. We will see more examples of this in the next decade.

What piece of advice would you give to someone setting up a practice or starting their career in animal health and welfare?

There are so many opportunities today when setting up a practice. Many practices fail to become outstanding at social media and digital tech. With a good plan it is really possible to dominate your area. Of course, you need a good team to treat the animals that come in to see you but I don’t think many practices have truly embraced what Nick Stace, ex-CEO of RCVS, said a couple of years ago about every business being a digital business. The ones who get this right will grow very quickly. Of course, employ the best people you can and be gentle on yourself and others. A veterinary practice should be a fun place to work, but can be stressful too!

What’s next up for The Webinar Vet?

We have been growing quickly since we took some investment from The North West Business Fund in August 2015. I’m very proud of the team I have put together and they are a great asset to The Webinar Vet. We are a purpose-led business which wants to make veterinary education accessible and affordable to vets and nurses across the globe. We recently held our seventh International Webinar Vet Virtual Congress, for which we gave away over 1,000 tickets to vets in developing countries. It is thrilling that we can part of the global challenge to improve veterinary knowledge and hence, animal welfare.

Sam Joseph

Sam Joseph

Co-Founder of StreetVet

An interview with StreetVet co-founder Sam Joseph giving his thoughts on how vets can be innovators.

Small animal vet based in North London. Graduated from Bristol University in 2015 and previously completed an undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Sheffield. I have an interest in internal medicine, particularly cardiology.

Outside of work I enjoy climbing, surfing and walking the dog.

I started thinking about vet care for the homeless whilst at the University of Bristol and had, once or twice, been out with a stethoscope in the search for dogs to check over. It wasn’t until I moved back to London that I met Jade and we decided to develop a sustainable vet service for some of the most vulnerable pet owners in society, fuelled by the good will of the profession and the generosity of the general public.

What are you most proud of and why?

Hearing about vets and nurses that I have never met, working in cities that I’ve never been, to setting up their own StreetVet branches to help people that are hugely grateful for the care their animals have received. This always makes me feel incredibly proud of our profession as a whole as it highlights to me the genuinely caring and altruistic nature of so many vets and nurses.

What exciting developments do you expect in the field during the next 10 years?

Disclaimer – I have little to no knowledge on technology or innovation so please forgive my ramblings. However, I am amazed by the advancements that have been made in stem cell technology over the past few years. Scientists recently developed the first beating human heart entirely from stem cells! I also think the use of 3D printing will soon be commonplace in veterinary medicine and not just reserved for the most highlevel practitioners. Maybe through combining cutting edge stem cell developments with the precision and accuracy provided by 3D printing we might soon be offering organ transplants more regularly, especially to those end-stage CKD cats.

Why are vets good at innovation? What barriers do we face?

Vets are problem solvers and we often have to work under financial constraints with one eye on the clock and the other on the client. These conditions drive us to develop innovative solutions to make things quicker, cheaper, safer and also to drive progress and advancements within the field. I have known many colleagues who have come up with innovative ideas to solve some of the problems they face in practice but unfortunately, vets very often lack the time (and money) it takes to turn those bright ideas into new products, apps or organisations. This was true when we started StreetVet and it took many months of hard work from a lot of people to get it off the ground. Fortunately vets are also hard working, dedicated and pretty stubborn people so we will often achieve the goals we set ourselves.

“Vets are problem solvers and we often have to work under financial constraints with one eye on the clock and the other on the client.“

What piece of advice would you give to someone setting up a practice, starting their career or wanting to launch a new idea or product?

I recently gave a talk at the Vets:Stay, Go, Diversify conference about what factors kept us motivated during the ups and downs of setting up StreetVet. It was an honour to be involved in that event because the entire weekend was filled with inspirational speakers imparting advice on how to forge a more fulfilling career and it felt like the epicentre of a really inspirational movement taking place within the profession. One message that was clear at the end of the event was that there are many innovators and boundary pushers amongst us who all took risks to get to where they are today. My advice to anyone about to embark on a new path is to take the plunge, keep pushing and don’t compromise yourself or your vision for anyone. If things don’t quite go the way you had hoped (and I don’t think that will be the case), there is an amazing network of colleagues out
there to support you.

What is your vision for StreetVet and how does that fit in with conventional clinical practice?

StreetVet started in early 2016 with a small team of vets trying to use their skill-set to give back to their community. However, this was not an isolated event and across the country there had been hundreds of vets and nurses wanting to do something similar for some time. The reason thatStreetVet has expanded so quickly and picked up so much momentum is that workforce of motivated, conscientious professionals has been there all along and StreetVet is just a platform to allow those individuals to volunteer their time in a safe and sustainable way. We want to continue to share our model with teams of professionals across the country so that they can continue to offer vet care to those in need. By working alongside other organisations, we think that this is a totally achievable goal.

The most important thing for us when setting up in a new city is that the new team takes control and makes their branch of StreetVet their own. This will often involve teaming up with local practices who have been incredible at offering us discounted or pro-bono support. It is this sort of collaboration that I think is key for the future ofStreetVet. I hope that corporate and independent practices alike continue to recognise the value in investing in the local community, not just for the huge benefit it provides for those in need but also the positive effect it can have on staff wellbeing and job satisfaction.