News & Press: NZVA news

Bridging the gap

Monday, 1 April 2019  
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VetScript Editor's pick - April 2019

Newly appointed NZVA Veterinary Manager (Large Animals) Ash Keown has plenty on his plate, including forging better connections between sheep, beef and dairy veterinarians and the association’s head office. NZVA Senior Communications Advisor Mike Eng reports.


Newly appointed NZVA Veterinary Manager (Large Animals) Ash Keown (pronounced ‘Queue-in’) wants to get veterinarians talking in order to help them work better together and to grow their influence.

His newly created role focuses on serving the needs of members, in particular the NZVA’s Society of Sheep and Beef Cattle Veterinarians and Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians (DCV), while also acting as a link between these groups and head office to help improve communication.

“I’m hoping to bridge the gaps between the branches and head office, because collaboration makes us stronger and more efficient,” he says. “We’re all working towards the same goals for our profession. By working together, we’re more likely to achieve them.”

Ash is part of the team led by NZVA Chief Veterinary Officer Helen Beattie.

“The association exists to support its members, and we (head office and the NZVA Board) recognised that to do that effectively we needed more veterinary resources,” says Helen. “We are currently in the process of hiring a Companion Animal Veterinary Manager, who will join the team in the next couple of months and fill a similar role to the one Ash has. With me, Ash and the companion animal manager working together, we’ll be able to streamline our work programmes and offer more to our members. As Ash says, the veterinary team will help bridge the gap between members, the special interest branches and head office.

We expect this to help improve transparency around what everyone is doing and, in turn, enhance and improve our relationships, and encourage a more collaborative approach. Ultimately, we hope to improve efficiency in the work that the NZVA does.”

Day to day, Ash is responsible for policy development and review, resource development, responding to member queries and representing large animal veterinarians with stakeholders. With only three months under his belt, he has already been active in a number of areas.

“A desk job is certainly a change of pace from clinical work, but I’m really enjoying the intellectual challenge. Never before have I delved so deeply into legislation, policy and professional standards,” he says.

Ash has been working on several projects, including the Fit for Transport policy and guideline reviews (including new veterinary certification pads, which will be arriving soon), updating disbudding guidelines, the Dairy Risk Assessment tool, DCV roadshows and representing veterinarians at Ministry for Primary Industries Mycoplasma bovis meetings, as well as the Vetpak animal welfare and Leptosure reviews.

From Hamilton, Ash is a self-described townie. He rekindled his childhood career aspirations when working as a labourer on a dairy farm near Thames, after dropping out of his first year studying a BA in English and music (he plays cello and, we suspect, understates his ability to play guitar and sing).

“I’d always loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian, but got waylaid somewhat in high school. My experience on the dairy farm made me realise where my passion really was,” he says.

After first completing a BAppSci in animal management and animal welfare at Unitec, he graduated with a BVSc in 2015, and went on to work as a large animal veterinarian with veterinary group Vetora. His career was progressing, and last year he was awarded the NZVA’s inaugural Young Veterinarian of the Year award.

Also last year he was intrigued by the opportunity of a secondment at the NZVA, working alongside Helen to relieve (“very efficiently”, according to her) an extreme pressure point in workload. Ash worked in the Wellington office for a month on a variety of projects, and responded to member queries and the frequently asked questions on the NZVA website.

When a permanent position at head office was announced, he decided to apply for the newly created role.

“I was ready for the next step in my career, which I thought probably meant moving to a new area of the country, or maybe diversifying my area of practice. I’m a big believer in ‘you get out what you put in’, so when the opportunity came up to make a bigger impact I thought, ‘Why not?’ I really enjoyed my time with the NZVA when I was on secondment, and I saw an opportunity to be an educator, advocate and influencer in a wider sphere – more than on this animal, this farm, this district. For me, it’s about making the biggest positive impact I can to help advance the aspirations of the profession.”

As someone who took a while to realise a career goal he’d had since childhood, Ash’s advice to other young veterinarians starting out in the profession is to make the most of every opportunity. “Give more than you take. If you want to do something, put your hand up (even if you feel under-qualified!). Your colleagues are a source of inspiration – keep in touch, and pick their brains whenever you can. The success of the many is always greater than that of the few.”

And he is positive about the profession. “It has so much to offer – today, and in the future. Society is realising more and more how intertwined human, animal and environmental health is, and as a profession we have a lot of skills and knowledge to help inform the path society takes in the coming decades.”

If you’re a large animal veterinarian with feedback, questions, comments or concerns, Ash wants to hear from you. “I’m really keen to engage directly with members, because it’s you who we represent here at the NZVA!”