Congratulations to the 2017 graduating classes

Over the past few months, I have been fortunate to spend time with our student members. In December, Emma Dolan, the immediate past AVA Student President, presented to the AVA Board. December also formally marked the entry of our final-year student members into our profession and I was flattered to be asked to speak at the University of Queensland Veterinary School graduation ceremony.

In recent weeks, I attended the Veterinary Students’ conference in Wagga Wagga, which was a delightfully casual affair. For the students, the week combines lectures, practical workshops, a trade show and a healthy dose of the traditions, good fun and ‘in-jokes’ that are very difficult to explain to people who are not vets. In our proud culture of education, the week is driven by a group of engaged students from the hosting university with the support of the AVA, the hosting university, members of our profession and the broader industry.

Each year, the AVA President and the Head of AVA Policy and Advocacy (Melanie Latter) run a mock Policy Council with the students. Both Melanie and I were impressed with the level of student engagement and their awareness of the challenges and opportunities that face the profession. Many of the students had responded to our recent Policy and Advocacy survey and confirmed animal welfare, AMR and workforce economics as key priorities for them.

The mock Policy Council flowed into lectures from AVAWE Policy Councilor Bronwyn Orr and ACV member Matt Peterson. Both touched on the use of analgesia in routine husbandry procedures, using calf debudding as an example. They highlighted that regardless of our area of work, we are closer together than we can sometimes seem and that leadership in animal health and welfare is as much about individual action as a collective approach.

Our policy on Employing New Veterinary Graduates was one of those discussed at Student Policy Council. Managing the transition to work and opportunities for graduates dominated subsequent conversations. These discussions were also central to Emma Dolan’s presentation to the Board in December. As the policy highlights, the transition from student to new graduate is incredibly challenging, as the doubt in one’s own freshly minted abilities is combined with a new workplace and often a new home, town and state. Acknowledging the challenges, the policy steps through the expectations that we have of each other and how mutual commitment and hard work enable both the graduate and their workplace to thrive.

As the new cohort of graduates join us in the workplace, our challenge as ‘old hands’ is to hold up our side of the bargain: to welcome, support, be open to change, challenge and new ideas, live by our values and allow ourselves to be infected by their passion.

I am pleased to say this cherished culture is alive and well in the next generation of our profession. To the students who have become veterinarians; welcome. This is a club you have joined for life.

Paula Parker

This article appeared in the Australian Veterinary Journal: Aust Vet J 2018;96(3):N4

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