BSAVA Travel Scholarship winners report

20 June 2017

The 2017 BSAVA Congress, in Birmingham, once again welcomed four beneficiaries of its annual scholarship visiting programme.

The scholarships, created to improve the understanding and communication of companion animal practitioners in Europe, provide four members of emerging small animal veterinary organisations within FECAVA with the opportunity to attend this major congress. They were awarded this year to four recently graduated companion animal veterinary surgeons from Latvia, Serbia and Slovenia, who were more than impressed by their experience.

Pictured left to right above are: Ģirts Strelēvics from Latvia, BSAVA President John Chitty, Haita Balzam from Serbia, recipient of the Afscan scholarship Benjamin Onundo from Kenya, FECAVA representative Krista Arnold, Andreja Kastelic Hrček from Slovenia, BSAVA Senior Vice President Susan Dawson and Ziva Cerne from Slovenia.

Despite the sometimes lengthy journeys undertaken simply to be there, the enthusiasm of all four “guests”, and their determination to take in as much as possible over the four day conference, mirrored that shown by previous recipients of these scholarships. From their arrival, where they were personally welcomed at their hotel by their BSAVA host, Dr Krista Arnold, to the close of the Congress and the necessary farewells, the group progressively gelled together as friends. Each sought out prime topics of interest from the extensive programme, but then all came together to enjoy the entertainment and relaxation on offer after the full days of lectures.

By the time they left, all were agreed that the experience had more than exceeded their expectations.
“It was very hard to choose between so many interesting lectures”, said Andreja Kastelic from Slovenia. “I was mostly following the ophthalmology stream, my main interest at the moment, and I also attended practical training “Basic Eyelid Surgery” with three specialists. The knowledge I received was so useful and motivational that I am looking forward to going home to use my new skills on my patients.” On her return to Slovenia Andreja reported: “For me Congress hasn’t finished yet, I’m still enjoying listening to all the lectures I missed with the Congress podcasts.”

The four delegates found time between lectures to explore new trends in veterinary medicine on display in the Commercial Exhibition arena, as well as to meet with some old friends, make new ones and to enjoy the company of BSAVA representatives.
“I was very honoured to personally meet BSAVA President (at the time) Susan Dawson, Vice President (at the time) John Chitty and other British delegates who all made us feel very welcome, ”added Andreja.

For fellow Slovenian, Ziva Cerne, the Congress was an amazing experience in all aspects:
“I was often wishing that I could clone myself, to be able to listen to multiple lectures at the same time, I found so many topics interesting.  I brought home hundreds of useful tips and ideas and a lot of motivation for more studying!“ “The lectures were outstanding and the lecturers flawless. I felt driven and inspired. I could choose which subject was more appealing to me and my field of practice, so I could incorporate new formed knowledge and information into my work. Everything was more than I could ever imagine.”

The BSAVA Congress was a first experience of a major veterinary event for Girts Strelevics from Latvia. The imaging and laparoscopy lectures were of special interest as he seeks to further develop his specialist veterinary diagnostic imagery skills:

“I learnt a lot of useful tips, and  methods to improve safety, which I will use in my daily work,” he said, “I will be publishing my experiences of BSAVA Congress in the Latvian Veterinary Journal, so I hope you will get a lot of application letters from Latvia next year.”

But it wasn’t just the quality of available information that so impressed this quartet, who rapidly formed themselves into a social media contact group. They were equally stunned by the evening events, to which they were invited.

“The social events were something to remember for a long time”, said Andreja. “Banquet evening was like heaven – from lighting effects, the elegant atmosphere and extraordinary 7-course menu, not to mention good company at the table. We had such a good time that I think we will stay friends forever and hopefully meet again soon.”

Her new found friends were equally impressed:
“We had so much fun together” said Ziva, “Sipping champagne, tasting delicacies and dancing at the banquet and experiencing VetFest – I am not even able to pick my favourite one! Not to mention all the delicious food and wine we ate in those few days …”

But for these four delegates to BSAVA Congress 2017, it does not end there.

“The most enduring thing would be the connection that I made with my fellow scholars” said Haita. “They are the most extraordinary people. Every one of them is special in their own way, making it in our field as they can, and doing things they love- treating animals and taking care of their wellbeing. And the most amazing thing about them is their passion for veterinary medicine.” She summed up her feelings and those of her fellow scholars: “This whole experience was unforgettable, and I wish the same for the next year’s scholar generation.  A big thank you to Krista and the whole BSAVA team for the amazing experience, lifetime memories and a great time with quality people.”

If you are a practising vet in a FECAVA member country, you can apply for the 2018 BSAVA Travel Scholarship here by 31st July 2017.