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Ten-minute chat
  1. David Wadsworth


David Wadsworth is immediate past-president of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, having also been president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and the Lancashire Veterinary Association. He is principal of a practice in Thornton-Cleveleys, which he founded in 1974, and is a keen alpinist and birdwatcher.

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When did you first get involved with WSAVA?

After my BSAVA presidency, I was appointed the BSAVA's assembly representative to the WSAVA, and from then on served as honorary secretary to WSAVA for five years before becoming its president in 2008. In WSAVA, official positions have a two-year term. Events happen much more slowly because of the difficulties of seeking opinions from about 80 countries with differing cultures and attitudes; this slows the decision-making process to, at times, a snail's pace.

How do you manage to fit your WSAVA activities in with your day job?

I am fortunate to have a ‘butterfly mind’, which enables me to compartmentalise subjects and work on several things at once (probably it's just multitasking that 50 per cent of the population manages anyway). It has, though, allowed me to work in the practice and – even between cases – write letters and manage WSAVA and BSAVA work at the same time. I have probably spent about three hours a day working on my secretarial and presidential positions, but I consider it time well spent, as it has offered me an insight into the veterinary world and the opportunity to give something back to the profession that has served me so well over the years.

Tell us about the climbing.

WSAVA is not all hard work, and the meetings in different countries around the world have enabled me to add on a day or two's holiday and the chance to indulge myself in my ongoing hobbies of climbing and birdwatching. WSAVA meetings have led to climbs in the Sierra Nevada in Mexico, climbing the Volcan de Toluca – the country's third highest peak and an extinct volcano. Higher than Mont Blanc, it was a safer prospect than Popocatepetl, which still has the tendency to erupt.

The Spanish Sierra Nevada near Granada was fertile ground, with a delightful ridge walk called the Tajos de la Virgen, and the Rhodes congress provided a birthday walk to the highest point of the Dodecanese islands. Peter Sterchi, the Swiss assembly representative, who is also a keen climber, took me up the Faulhorn and, to my delight, introduced me to his friends as an alpinist, which probably meant more to me than any presidential position. An alpinist seems to be a person who has climbed to more than 4000 metres (about three times the height of Ben Nevis), though some of the alpine climbs I have done are easier than others.

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And the birdwatching?

Birdwatching days are also treasured; the North American Veterinary Conference meeting in Orlando is a delight for any birdwatcher, with a huge variety of relatively ‘tame’ birds to see. Merritt Island near Canaveral is a huge area of marshland, and birding in this vast area requires a car, often with the background of an impending shuttle launch to add a surreal atmosphere. Major species are the herons and egrets, with bald eagles, and ospreys as common as sparrows. Unusual birds like skimmers and limpkins, among others, delight a UK-based birder, while the alligators (no warning signs!) and armadillos add reptilian and mammalian interest. I have seen wallcreepers and lammergeiers in the Alps, imperial, lesser spotted and white-tailed eagles in Slovakia, flamingoes and azure magpies in the Coto Doñana national park in Spain, while other less salubrious sites have provided off-duty entertainment. Birds often inhabit the local rubbish tips and other unsavoury corners, which doesn't impress my wife when she can be persuaded to spend a day out with ‘bins’.

What was your proudest moment?

It is probably the day on which it became obvious that the practice I founded in 1974 was going to succeed and provide an income, though perhaps that was just relief!

I also got tremendous pleasure and pride from my years spent as congress chairman for BSAVA. It was a tremendous experience to work with a group of highly motivated and enthusiastic people who were dedicated to staging the ‘best congress in the world’. The committee worked with and for each other and the association, and delivered a stunning result financially and scientifically every year. Other congress committees have and do achieve the same result, but I will never forget the tremendous thrill of completing a successful congress.

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