Dr Jonathan Statham, Professor of Sustainable livestock Health and Welfare, farm vet, CEO RAFT Solutions.
To underline the importance we place on sustainability, the Vet School has made an early appointment to lead in this area. Jonathan is still a practising farm vet but through the creation of RAFT he has pursued his interest in how vets can make positive impacts.
Through global research collaborations and advocacy, he has helped to create tangible impacts on practice and education. His role with the Vet School ensures our students are taught the importance of a sustainable approach from the outset and enables our staff and students to engage in research and related projects.
This focus in the School is underpinned by expertise in both universities. Harper Adams has varied and impactful research interests in sustainable agriculture and several programmes with environmental sustainability at their heart, including the recent establishment of a School of Sustainable Food and Farming and a pledge to achieve net zero by 2030
Keele is a leading player in sustainability, not just ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2030 but also through teaching and ground-breaking research into climate change and renewable technologies. In 2021 Keele University received the prize for sustainability institution of the year, the highest accolade at the Green Gown Awards. Professor Zoe Robinson is working across the Keele programmes to help academic staff embed sustainability in everything we do.
Our vet students benefit greatly by having access to high-quality support from Students Services teams at both Harper Adams and Keele. We work closely with both teams to ensure that this is coordinated across both campuses irrespective of where and when they may need it.
The veterinary profession is full of both challenges and rewards. Many regard this career path as a true vocation, approaching clinical practice with passion and dedication. It’s a rewarding career but working with animals and clients can be stressful. The demanding nature of our profession presents significant challenges that can impinge on wellbeing and performance.
Competent veterinary surgeons require a broad set of clinical and professional skills to preserve mental wellbeing and their ability to perform on the job. We believe psychological self-management abilities require greater emphasis within the training experience. Equipping students with these skills will ensure they enter the profession as resilient, high-performing leaders enabling veterinary businesses to thrive.
The Vet School has recognised the importance of actively promoting positive mental health in students, staff, and colleagues from partner organisations who work with us. Wellbeing and Performance is one of our strategic themes created to drive best practice and innovation in this domain. This theme encompasses skills such as resilience, leadership, and critical self-reflection amongst others. There is a reciprocal relationship between wellbeing and performance. Robust and healthy veterinary surgeons can absorb challenges, and high performance brings confidence and job satisfaction. This strategic theme reflects the need to hold both elements in mind when preparing students for post qualification life.
Dr Jason Spendelow has recently joined the Vet School team as our Professor of Clinical Psychology and Professional Practice. He brings more than 15 years of experience in clinical and business settings including the NHS and several corporate leadership teams, providing evidence-based psychological interventions to address mental health and workplace performance issues. Jason is working through collaborations with research colleagues at Harper Adams and Keele and with external stakeholders to develop a strategic plan for contributing to enhanced well-being within the veterinary profession.
Vets often have a leadership role in practices and our programme will help students develop those skills. However, they are increasingly members of varied expert teams responsible for animal health and welfare in a variety of settings. For example, farm vets act as animal health and productivity advisors to farmers’ businesses not only through their clinical skills and knowledge but also through the use of data gained through the use of sensors and automated systems to help understand complex patterns of health and disease in larger groups of animals.
Recognising the importance of developing insights into the roles of allied professionals, the Vet School has developed this theme as one of our focus areas. The aim is to offer multiple opportunities for engagement with students on other programmes to inform their development as collaborative professionals and act as a springboard into the world of work.
In the spirit of modelling integrated health care for our companion animals, the Vet School is working very closely with the Veterinary Nursing and Physiotherapy teams at Harper Adams. The new Veterinary Education Centre has been specifically designed with this in mind and vet, nursing and physio students will share the building and resources, learning from each other and supporting the integrated team ethos.
Vet schools are now focusing more of the curriculum into excellence in primary care or ‘first opinion’ veterinary practice.
This better prepares graduates for the roles that the majority will undertake and provides an ideal platform for further career development and specialisation if desired.
Harper & Keele has taken the opportunity to capitalise on the development of the new Vet School building at Keele to embed primary care focused and student-centred caseloads in the associated clinics. This will help our students to develop great confidence in this work and set them on the path to successful careers. The approach is augmented by close industry partnerships that allow us to further engage students in a range of different types of practices with varied approaches to their case management and business models.
Our near neighbours on campus, Keele Medical School and allied programmes in Health Sciences have great strengths in primary care practice and associated research involving large data sets and we are working closely with them to foster cross-pollination through share insights and expertise. Our industry partners also benefit from access to these groups and the potential to collaborate and support practice-based clinical research in the veterinary profession.
As a new vet school with a unique model of delivery, we have a wonderful opportunity to adopt best practices in education and create an environment where staff and students can learn together, and readily adapt and evolve our approach. We have embraced technology and innovative approaches to help meet the challenges of such a varied programme.
Veterinary knowledge is ever expanding and access to the richest and most diverse resources critical. Students benefit from a wide range of placements in authentic workplace settings but need to keep connected to their tutors and mentors to support their ongoing academic development and pastoral welfare.
In order to facilitate this and ensure that all students have the same access to the highest quality learning resources, irrespective of their personal circumstances, we provide iPads and Apple Pencils to all students at no cost*, for the duration of their studies. These are already being used very effectively to enrich students’ studies and drive creativity in group work, presentations, and the development of portfolios.
We have adopted interactive platforms and apps to enable effective communications and easy to access learning resources and continue to work with colleagues in education technology to develop new approaches.
We commit to understanding and sharing our educational approach and experiences through pedagogical research and all teaching staff benefit from their own ongoing educational development. These efforts are led by our Director of Education, Dr Mike Cathcart and will be enhanced with the imminent appointment of a research and innovation leadership role for this strategic theme.
*A charge will be made in the event of loss or damage to the iPad, Apple Pencil or protective case.