Why join the RCVS Fellowship?
In 2012, the RCVS looked at new ways vets could become fellows, thereby making the RCVS Fellowship more representative of the profession.
It set up a specialisation working party, chaired by the former chief medical officer Kenneth Calman, who recommended that new routes to entry, other than fellowship by thesis and meritorious contributions to learning, should be created.
The next step was for a specially set up working party to develop new ways of joining. It suggested three routes – meritorious contribution to the veterinary profession; meritorious contribution to knowledge and meritorious contribution to clinical practice. These ensure that entry is no longer mostly confined to those in academia and allow those contributing in other fields – clinical practice, veterinary politics and veterinary business, among others – to join.
Under the guidance of Nick Bacon, the first chair of the Fellowship Board, the new fellowship and routes to entry were launched in 2016 – the year I became a fellow. Since then, over 150 new fellows have joined, adding a younger and more female demographic profile to the institution.
Continuing its evolution, in 2018 the fellowship developed a new strategy with three broad aims:
• Promoting scientific excellence by helping to examine the profession’s knowledge base, identify gaps and translate the latest scientific research and knowledge into veterinary practice.
• Furthering professional skills and practice and invigorating creativity by committing the fellowship to share best practice and, by doing so, enhance the skills and practice of the profession.
• Becoming a trusted and authoritative voice to raise awareness and understanding of veterinary science to the general public.
I took over as chair of the board last year and I want members of the profession to think about joining the fellowship. I would especially like to see more vets from general/primary care practice – as well as more women and other under-represented groups – coming through.
Being a vet can be rewarding on a day-to-day basis, but when we’re busy dealing with the immediate problems in front of us, it can be more difficult to get a long-term sense of achievement.
As vets, we want to be able to look back at our careers and say: ‘I achieved something, I changed something – I contributed in some way to the evolution of the profession and how we engage with the animal-owning public.’ With its new energy and its ambitious strategy, the fellowship is the ideal place to gain that particular sense of satisfaction.
I am keen to encourage people to at least think about becoming a fellow – even if it’s not for now. I recommend talking to someone in your peer group or your company or your university who has become a fellow during the past few years. Ask them about the requirements and the process, the evidence you need and so on – we are keen to mentor prospective fellows on how to apply.
'Being a vet can be rewarding on a day-to-day basis, but it can be difficult to get a long-term sense of achievement'
I’m also keen that we showcase the fellows who have come through the newer routes to help inspire those who, although contributing a great deal, might not think the fellowship is for them.
It is clear that we need more fellows from general practice – where there are many vets who have achieved a great deal – it is important to document their achievements.
One of those who has been tasked with reaching out to the wider profession is Mary Fraser, a projects and engagements member of the fellowship board.
She has had a varied career, including running her own small animal practice, undertaking a certificate and then a PhD in dermatology, and developing and teaching veterinary nurse training courses.
Currently she is head of skills at the University of Stirling’s Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and also runs her own veterinary training business. She says she joined the fellowship in 2017 because she wanted to be part of the changes and contribute to the profession.
‘As a board member, my main objectives are to create events and use these as platforms to talk to people, promote the fellowship and support and encourage those who would like to become fellows themselves.
‘I see the fellowship as being a learned society for the profession – bringing together current thinking, knowledge and opinions, contributing to decisions made by the RCVS, while representing the profession as a whole.
‘As far as your career is concerned, being a fellow makes it clear that you meet certain standards and that you have been reviewed by your peers, but it is also a way to meet people, make contacts and contribute to the profession. If you are thinking about it, then go for it – talk to the RCVS and other fellows, and investigate the application process so you are sure of what to do.’
Information about the application process and our fellows can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/fellowship. For help and advice email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for applying in 2020 is 17.00 on 17 February.