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Education

An Interview with Incoming Head of Veterinary School, Anna Meredith

22 March 2018

This year, there are many changes occurring at the Melbourne Veterinary School including Professor Anna Meredith assuming the position of head of the Melbourne Veterinary School in July.

Professor Meredith is presently Professor and Chair of Zoological and Conservation Medicine, and Associate Dean International at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Along with the change in leadership, the Melbourne Veterinary School is also undertaking other significant changes. Most notably the $63 million redevelopment of facilities at the University of Melbourne U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital and Werribee campus, and the Western Edge Biosciences Stage One Project.

The redevelopment of the Vet School facilities at the U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital and campus include a new five-storey building for students to learn pre-clinical and clinical skills. It also includes a café, a new hospital entrance, increased consultation and learning spaces, increased parking for students and patients, and better accessibility throughout the campus. The redevelopment will also improve the University’s Green Star rating, bring the current hospital’s rating up to four stars, and the new building will be rated five stars, which supports the University’s ongoing sustainability targets.

The Western Edge Biosciences Stage One Project will provide a state of the art precinct on the corner of Tin Alley and Royal Parade for students with a bioscience background such as Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture, Science, Medicine, and Dentistry and Health Science students. There will be new teaching labs, equipment and learning spaces available for students and staff from these faculties all within the one building.

Professor Meredith was kind enough to conduct an interview with Farrago about her new role, the direction of the Melbourne Veterinary School, and the impact that the changes will have upon students.

What has appealed to you most about your new role at the University of Melbourne?
Mainly, the appeal was the international reputation of the University and the Vet School itself, which I have always been aware of through various veterinary contacts and colleagues over the years. Also via some classic veterinary textbooks that I studied as a vet student myself which were authored by Melbourne staff. The Faculty and School’s strategic focus on a One Health approach mirrors my own philosophy of how veterinary medicine contributes to global health, and my research interest in conservation medicine, so that is also a key attraction for me.

Secondly, I have been at the University of Edinburgh for over 25 years now, and while I absolutely love my job there and have had many different roles, I felt that it was high time for a new challenge and adventure, and also to hand over [her job role] to my colleagues to enable them to step into my shoes and develop their careers further.

Other big appeals are of course the extraordinary and unique Australian wildlife, which is my personal veterinary interest, more sunshine and warmth than in Scotland, all that good Melbourne coffee and Australian wine, and being able to distance myself a bit from Brexit!

You will be overseeing some exciting initiatives in your new role. What do you think the Melbourne Veterinary School will be able to achieve through the Werribee redevelopment and the construction of the biosciences stage one project?
The University’s investment in the new biosciences building and the redevelopment at Werribee will undoubtedly enable the school to continue to deliver and develop excellence in clinical care, research and evidence-based teaching, and to enhance its reputation and attraction as the top veterinary school in Australia. They are also essential for its continued accreditation by the AVMA, vital for international reputation and the ability for our graduates to practice worldwide. But I think the most exciting aspect, and one I have witnessed first-hand, is the impact on people—how new buildings and facilities can re-energise both staff and students, give them pride in their surroundings, and bring them together to enhance communication and creativity, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most.

You mentioned impact on people. What are the most significant changes you will bring to the Veterinary School and how will this impact students?
I have no preconceptions at all about what changes I may bring, and I’m not a believer in change for change’s sake when a new leader arrives. Although, of course I recognise that success and excellence relies on constant improvement and innovation. Once I take up the position in July, I intend to spend a great deal of time talking and listening to students and staff so I can fully understand current issues and future requirements. I’m very conscious that the School has already undergone quite a significant period of change in structure and leadership recently, so I’ll be looking primarily to bring stability and cohesion, while, at the same time, ensuring that we continue to evolve, innovate and deliver a truly excellent student experience, and grow our global reputation and impact.

Thank you for your time and lastly, do you have a message for students who may be interested in undertaking studies within the Melbourne Veterinary School?
Studying veterinary medicine gives you an unrivalled scientific training, probably the broadest possible, and equips you with skills that open the door to a huge variety of career opportunities—in clinical veterinary practice, research, education, industry, governmental and non-governmental organisations and many more. If you want a world-class student experience, taught in excellent facilities by internationally renowned staff, all in one of the best cities in the world to live, come to Melbourne Veterinary School!


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