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By Georgina Mills
Exotics vet and star of CBBC’s ‘The Pets Factor’ Fabian Rivers has scooped BVA's Young Vet of the Year award for 2020.
The award, which is sponsored by Zoetis, was launched in 2019 and recognises an exceptional young vet who leads, inspires, impacts and goes above and beyond what is expected of them early on in their career.
Rivers, who works with both exotics and small animals, impressed the judges with his contributions to the veterinary profession and his passion for raising awareness around exotic animal care.
‘The award signifies the cherry on the top of a very tasty looking cake!’ Rivers told Vet Record.
‘A lot of my time since I started clinical practice felt akin to becoming “good enough”, feeling “competent”, being “capable”. I always wanted to get to the point where most cases that came through the door, I could handle with a sense of innate confidence and I honestly feel that way now.
‘It marks what feels like the true end to my university experience and the beginning of my veterinary career. I am a keen advocate that we should celebrate our wins a lot more and what a moment to celebrate.’
A 2018 graduate from the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brno, Czech Republic, Rivers is also a recent graduate member of BVA council and an active writer.
While at university, he wrote his own student blog – Dready Vet – and since then has published several articles on a variety of topical and important issues such as ethnicity and race, diversity within the profession, feminism, Halal slaughter, and reptile health and welfare.
His passion for exotics was sparked by watching David Attenborough documentaries as a child and gave Rivers a particular affinity ‘for the peculiar and strange parts of nature’.
He went on to get as much experience with these species as possible – from a period working with African penguins in Cape Town, South Africa, to presenting case studies on tortoises while at university. The award judges credited him for his passion for communicating the complex welfare needs of non-traditional companion animals to the public.
Rivers also became one of the regular vets on CBBC’s The Pets Factor earlier this year, which he describes as a ‘wonderful experience’.
He said: ‘The best moments have been about sharing with so many people that I can't access on a normal day. I've had messages from so many kids, teenagers and adults all being very excited about the show, the cases I dealt with and generally about animals. Being excited about nature and animals should be for everyone and I am so glad I can be some point of reference for a really big audience interested in that.’
However, despite spending some of his time in front of the cameras now, his career highlight is simply being a vet.
He said: ‘In just two years [since I graduated] I've done so much, I can't really quantify all that's happened afterwards. This moment really is a seal of approval for all that's occurred during that time.’
And what next for the ‘Dready Vet’?
Everything beyond here on out is a bonus
‘I wanted to be a vet, I hoped I could work with exotics, and as a stretch, the possibility of being on television was something I had set the limit at. Everything beyond here on out is a bonus and I mean that in the most sincere of ways.
‘To throw in a Young Vet of the Year to this year is just the dream. I'd like to continue to do more for my community but I am totally content with seeing what happens.’
BVA president James Russell said Rivers had made a ‘significant impact within the profession and beyond’.
‘The broad reach of his work – on issues that affect our profession and animal welfare – has made a national impact and promoted our profession to new audiences of all ages. During a particularly challenging year for all of us, Fabian is a truly deserving winner of the BVA Young Vet of the Year award 2020,’ he said.
The award was presented at a virtual ceremony on 13 November. This year’s other finalists were Nat Scroggie and Ben Howitt.
Scroggie is a locum vet based in the East Midlands and writes a blog called 'This Vet Runs'. She is a keen runner and has spoken openly about her experiences with pregnancy loss. She founded the Vet MINDS project. MINDS stands for miscarriage, infertility, neonatal death and stillbirth, and it serves to support vet professionals facing these issues.
Howitt started out in mixed practice before going to work in the Galapagos Islands for a charitable clinic. He went on to found Pan Animalia, which aims to provide accessible healthcare for domestic animals in the Galapagos and helps manage population numbers. ●
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