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Ten-minute chat
  1. Michael Day

Abstract

Michael Day is Professor of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Bristol. He is chairman of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Scientific Advisory Committee, the WSAVA One Health Committee and the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group. He is also vice-president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA).

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How did you get to where you are today?

After graduation from Murdoch University (Western Australia) in 1982, I spent a short time in small animal practice before undertaking a combined PhD and residency in clinical immunology and microbiology. I undertook two postdoctoral fellowships in experimental immunology, the first in the Department of Pathology at the University of Bristol and the second in the MRC Cellular Immunology Unit at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford. In 1990, I took up a lectureship in veterinary pathology at Bristol veterinary school, where I have been ever since.

What does your work involve?

I am primarily a diagnostic pathologist and spend much of my time reading biopsies and performing postmortem examinations. I also run a diagnostic clinical immunology laboratory and teach immunology and pathology. My research focuses on immune-mediated and infectious diseases of companion animals and is undertaken through numerous local, national and international collaborations. I am also Director of Pathology and co-founder of a university spin-out company that undertakes contract research for the pharmaceutical industry. Additionally, I am Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Comparative Pathology; I am only the sixth editor of the journal since it was founded in 1888.

What do you like about your job?

That no single day is the same, although in recent years I have become increasingly desk-bound!

Why is your job important?

The veterinary pathologist functions at the intersection of basic science and clinical application, providing understanding of disease processes and often a definitive clinical diagnosis. In the broader context, veterinary pathology underpins areas as diverse as new drug development and national disease surveillance.

What would you say to someone considering a similar career?

There is a global shortage of trained veterinary pathologists in academia, industry and government service. The accepted entry point to a career in veterinary pathology is via a residency training programme leading to board certification. Unfortunately, these programmes are competitive and there is insufficient funding allocated to satisfy the worldwide demand for pathologists.

What are your roles in BSAVA and WSAVA?

I have always had a strong belief in giving back to the profession through voluntary work. I have been a volunteer on BSAVA committees for the past 15 years and have chaired both the scientific and education committees before joining the Board in 2011. I have been a member of the Scientific Committee of the Petplan Charitable Trust since 2004. I was invited to join the WSAVA Scientific Advisory Committee in 2005 and have chaired that group since 2008. In 2006, we set up the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group (VGG) and I have chaired that committee since 2009. In 2010, I initiated the WSAVA One Health Committee (OHC) to ensure that small companion animals were represented in the emerging global One Health strategy.

What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?

To move overseas for postdoctoral research. There is an unspoken expectation for Australian academics to do this; however, more often than not they never return home.

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What work are you most proud of?

There is currently much discussion in academic circles about the impact of one's work on wider society. Probably the greatest impact of my work has been in challenging and implementing global change in the way that dogs and cats are vaccinated, through the WSAVA VGG. We campaigned successfully for triennial core revaccination and this in turn has reshaped the available product range from industry. There are challenges remaining and the VGG starts a new project next month that focuses on the vaccination requirements of the Asian continent.

Similarly, the WSAVA OHC is having a global impact. We have engaged with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and, within a broad portfolio of activity, have prioritised increasing awareness of global canine rabies elimination. It is incredible that in 2012 an estimated 55,000 people still die annually from canine rabies infection – a disease that is entirely preventable through mass vaccination of dogs. I was proud to have the opportunity of giving an address on this subject to the 80th general session of the OIE in Paris recently.

Tell us something not many people know about you.

Surprisingly, few people realise that I am an Australian and hail from the most isolated city on the planet (Perth). This year is 25 years since I left to take up a one-year Leverhulme Commonwealth Visiting Fellowship … with the intention of returning home at the end of that year!

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