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Fledgling vets get ready to fly
  1. BVA AWF


The BVA AWF Animal Welfare Forum takes place just before the annual Lancaster Final-Year Student Seminar. It allows students to get to grips with animal welfare matters in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, before they go on the seminar itself, where they prepare for the transition from university to working life

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THE BVA Animal Welfare Foundation (BVA AWF) Animal Welfare Forum is held each year just before the Lancaster Final-Year Student Seminar. This year's event will take place from July 6 to 7, with the seminar following on July 7 to 10.

Students take part in a role-playing exercise during the BVA AWF welfare forum

The forum is aimed at students who have just completed their fourth year of study. It provides an informal opportunity in which they can address a range of welfare situations that they will encounter in veterinary practice.

The forum is conducted in a workshop format, with delegates being divided into small groups, each led by a tutor. The students are presented with case scenarios and then discuss the issues involved, taking animal welfare, client relations, practice politics, relevant legislation and individual ethical responsibilities into consideration. The case studies are written by vets and are based on real situations.

The tutors encourage delegates to discuss a variety of animal welfare case studies involving farm and companion animals, and are on hand to help with queries.

The students who take part in the forum also have the opportunity to demonstrate their acting skills. Role-play is used to explore solutions for handling the real-life situations that have been discussed. The tutors ensure that the environment is supportive and fun, and try to allay any nerves delegates may have about actively participating in the case studies. As one 2010 delegate noted in her feedback, ‘Initially, I wasn't keen on the idea of role-play, but it made the forum much more informal and fun. I would definitely recommend it to future years.’ Forum tutors come from a range of veterinary backgrounds. Last year, the tutors included BVA AWF trustees, and vets from small and large animal practice, government and the research sector. What this diverse group shared was a wealth of experience in veterinary practice and the generosity to give their time to support the professional development of the next generation of veterinary surgeons.

Feedback from each forum has been extremely positive, with students continually highlighting the practical value of the forum and its refreshing and original approach to welfare education.

The promotion and development of welfare education is a key objective of the BVA AWF. The foundation regards its welfare forum as an event that actively supports the ongoing work of veterinary schools to strengthen the animal welfare and ethics element of their teaching.

How to apply

The BVA AWF is able to fund places for approximately 50 students this year. The foundation will also pay travel expenses to and from Lancaster, plus accommodation and meals at the event. Those planning to attend the final-year student seminar may like to travel to Lancaster earlier to experience the welfare forum at no extra cost.

Students wishing to reserve a place should contact the BVA AWF administration manager, Florence Bowman: e-mail, or telephone 020 7908 6375.

Undergraduate to employee – smoothing the way

The Lancaster Final-Year Student Seminar is designed to help make the step from undergraduate to employee as smooth as possible. The seminar covers topics not covered elsewhere in the veterinary curriculum, reinforces subjects covered at university and, more importantly, lets students mix and meet others in the same boat.

Each place is heavily subsidised, and students pay only a token amount towards the cost. Core to the funding for this event are the BVA and SPVS Educational Trusts and the BSAVA. Many drug companies also give freely of their time as well as helping financially. The seminar this year is subtitled ‘Your first job, challenges and opportunities’, which sums up what it is trying to achieve. Topics covered will include interview techniques, how to make and look after money, what employers expect, avoiding pitfalls and stress, and much more.

To make the seminar the success it is, over 80 vets give up their time and expertise. Many of these vets feel they benefit too, by improving their understanding of new graduates and helping them to provide a supportive environment for that ‘first job’.

Finally, there is the social side of Lancaster. A big part of the seminar is mixing with students from other schools. It is an opportunity to share experiences and build acquaintances. Nowhere is this more likely than at the bar; however, there are plenty of events laid on to facilitate the mix.

This year's seminar takes place from July 7 to 10. If you are a veterinary student who would like more information, or a veterinary surgeon who would be interested in helping, do get in touch with this year's organiser, Iain Richards: e-mail Bookings for this year's event are being handled by the SPVS office, office{at}

Scenes from the 2010 Lancaster Final-Year Student seminar

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