Simon is the owner and director of Blackwater Consultancy where his principal client is UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) for which Simon works as the animal science expert for the Agri-Tech Organisation of UKTI. Simon graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2000 and worked for a number of years in progressive farm animal practice in Scotland and Northern Ireland before setting up Veterinary Northern Ireland in 2005-07. Simon joined the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) as a veterinary research officer in 2007 where he managed the Ruminant Virology, Animal Services & Fish Diseases Units, and played an important role in contingency planning for epizootic diseases. He was appointed as a consultant to UKTI in 2015.
Simon is a STEM Ambassador, advising young people interested in careers in veterinary medicine, and regularly mentors vet school applicants. He is an accredited CowSignals Trainer, an honorary lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and a trustee of the livestock development charity, Send a Cow. Simon is currently President of BVA Northern Ireland and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association.
“That the veterinary professions are clear and assertive about their wider roles in society, including in public health and environmental sustainability, and the critical importance of our scientific expertise is recognised and valued both within our professions and by the public”
Ambition 2 of Vet Futures – Taking charge of our future, pertaining to veterinary professionals’ wider roles in society.
Last year, it was my privilege to serve as the President of the BVA Northern Ireland Branch, during which time I had the opportunity to become fully immersed in the early stages of the Vet Futures project. When the call went out for applications to join the Vet Futures Action Group, I had little hesitation in preparing my application.
I qualified from the University of Glasgow Veterinary School in 2000 and, since then, have enjoyed a roller-coaster of a career – taking in general practice in Scotland and at home in Northern Ireland, two years setting up Veterinary Northern Ireland (VetNI), seven years in the world of diagnostics, research, commercialisation and regulatory studies at the Agri- Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI), and a spell as business development director of a biotech company, before taking up my current professional role as an animal health consultant for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
Alongside that, I have enjoyed many representative roles on the committees and councils of BVA and several other professional bodies, as well as being involved in training and education, careers mentoring and as a trustee of livestock development charity, Send a Cow. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every step along the way… so you can perhaps understand a little bit of my frustration when people continue to say to me, “I’m sure you must miss being a vet”.
There is a widespread preconception – even from within our own profession – that, to be a ‘proper’ vet, you have to be in clinical practice. It has been really enlightening, through my appointment to the Vet Futures Action Group, to learn about the journeys many practising and non-practising vets have taken during their careers, and the roles they have played in society, using many of the skills and attributes that brought them to our profession in the first place. It has been great to receive such widespread support for the Vet Futures initiative from many of the stakeholders we’ve spoken to, and to have the endorsement of many of our allied associations; in particular, it has been a pleasure to share this journey with the veterinary nurses as they explore their VN Futures.
Of course, there are days when I miss driving around the countryside working directly with farmers and their livestock. But I am passionate about what the UK veterinary profession and, indeed, the wider animal health industry, has to offer – both within these islands and at a global level – such as expertise in areas including One Health and the control of pandemic diseases, and knowledge and experience in emerging sectors such as aquaculture… as well as all of the services being offered by the arm of the profession in clinical practice!
It would be my hope that veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses up and down the country will read the Vet Futures report and this Action Plan, and the VN Futures report, and reflect on how they can each contribute to the successful development of our professions in the months, years and decades ahead.