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New President for Veterinary Association

New President for Veterinary Association

2 July 2013. WELLINGTON. Dr Steve Merchant is the new President of the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA). His first official public engagement is welcoming delegates at the opening plenary of the NZVA’s annual conference in Palmerston North this week (3 and 4 July).

He is a founding director of the Pet Doctors Group. Established in 2005, this is an expanding network of clinics made up of like-minded veterinarians who share resources and take a team-based approach to animal care.

Dr Steve Merchant has worked with both companion animals and in mixed practice in the Auckland and Bay of Plenty regions since graduating from Massey University in 1982. He has chaired both the NZVA’s Companion Animal Society and the Veterinary Business Group (both NZVA special interest groups for members) and joined the NZVA board in 2005. He was also involved for several years with the development of “Best practice accreditation” for veterinary practices.

Steve sees a number of challenges and opportunities for the NZVA in the next few years. He says his work will be to build on a sound base established over the past few years; leading a skilled board and well supported by the Association’s management team.

He said the importance of the veterinary profession in supporting export primary industries, particularly in animal welfare, biosecurity, antibiotic and other residues, and increasingly in agribusiness needs to be promoted to ”city dwellers”, and by implication, many decision makers.

“This is a huge challenge in terms of ensuring we further cement the position of veterinary practice as an exciting career option for school leavers and undergraduates. There is a lot of work to be done to continue to attract and retain young people in rural practice, even given the great results arising from the Rural Veterinary Bonding Scheme.

“We also need to more clearly articulate the benefits and value offered by veterinarians to their clients in terms of animal wellness. This involves far greater levels of consultancy and advice based on wider agribusiness expertise than has been expected from the veterinary profession in the past.

“And, veterinarians are partnering with industry stakeholders in the development of both the Dairy and Red Meat Strategies that have arisen from the government’s support through primary growth partnerships (PGPs) in the last couple of years,” Dr Merchant said.

Companion animal practice also has challenges, he suggests.

Companion animal veterinarians generally operate high-end, full service facilities and hospitals in an unfunded environment; and they give significant amounts of their time dealing with animal welfare issues, including those sad cases of neglect and abuse of animals by a few.

“Veterinarians have not been immune to the challenging economic times. Companion animal veterinarians are progressively supporting the increasing status that society places on pets and animals in general, and developing wellness and preventive medicine resources that recognise the life time value that pets bring to their owners,” Steve Merchant said.


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