Veterinary scene down under: Breakthrough VetChip device, plus new AVA CEO and more
dvm360®’s Australian correspondent Phil Tucak, BSc, BVMS, gives updates on a new biotechnology that monitors animal health, developments in making veterinary careers more sustainable, and a new CEO for the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).
VetChip monitors animal health
Wearable physical health monitors, such as those developed by Fitbit, are popular accessories for people who want to keep track of their activity and physical fitness. Now an Australian animal biotechnology company has developed an innovative implantable smart microchip that can monitor the animal’s health parameters.
Designed as a replacement and upgrade to existing identity microchips used in dogs and cats, VetChip can monitor an animal’s temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and tissue oxygenation. The device requires monthly wireless recharging via a specially designed hands-free charger that is similar in function to a wireless phone charger.
“VetChip is a game changer for all industries that touch on animal health or welfare. Animals of all species all over the world need access to veterinary care, but many diseases can go undetected or undiagnosed because animals can’t tell us—using words—when they are unwell, and [they] don’t always show obvious clinical signs,” said Garnett Hall, BVSc (Hons), VetChip cofounder and veterinarian.
VetChip is not only applicable in companion animal practice, but it also offers an opportunity for farmers to better manage herd health and can be used in equestrian sports and horse racing. In 2021, VetChip was awarded the Science and Engineering category prize at the Curtinnovation Awards, ran by Curtin University, where the VetChip team has collaborated on the commercialisation and innovation aspects of the technology. VetChip is currently completing their final tranche of clinical trials with partner universities and is expected to become commercially available in mid-2022.
Making veterinary careers sustainable
With the global veterinary industry under strain from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to staffing shortages and busy workloads, efforts are underway in Australia to change the way it feels to work and learn in the veterinary industry.
A new independent not-for-profit organization, Sustainable Veterinary Careers (SVC) is working to bring together the many pieces of the veterinary mental health and professional attrition puzzle in a strategic and evidence-based way, through increasing widespread access to nonclinical knowledge, skills, and resources.
“There is a lot of talk about what contributes to the high attrition rates, poor mental health, and dissatisfaction in the veterinary profession. Meanwhile, social scientists know a great deal about what motivates and satisfies people in work and life contexts. SVC aims to collate and disseminate the best resources to spark an industry-wide cultural shift, delivering stronger mental health and retention of veterinary professionals long into our future,” said Kate Clarke, BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS, MBA, SVC codirector and veterinarian.
SVC will draw together established social science, veterinary industry knowledge, and global data to identify areas where better knowledge and skills relate directly to better well-being, motivation, and satisfaction for veterinary personnel.
A key component of SVC’s approach is their proposal to implement a wholesaler levy to fund and measure the impact of resources, which contribute to improved well-being, satisfaction, and longevity within the veterinary sector. It is proposed that SVC would receive a levy collected by veterinary wholesalers, with customers covering the cost through the retail price of medications and consumables.
“We’ve received conceptual support from multiple wholesalers for this opt-out model, establishing a new normal in how—and who—supports well-being and professional longevity. We also think it’s important that everyone can understand how decisions are being made about the use of funds, so our not-for-profit status enables transparency and means we can also receive other forms of funding, such as donations,” Clarke said.
New Australian Veterinary Association CEO and workforce survey results
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), which represents over 8500 veterinarians across Australia, has appointed David Andrews, PhD, as the organization’s new CEO to commence in the role in March 2022.
Andrews’ career spans over 20 years of working with and leading medical-based organizations. Most recently, Andrews was the CEO of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, and he held the role for over 8 years.
“The AVA board is confident that David’s passion, skills, and experience coupled with his personable and engaging leadership style will complement our existing strong team to deliver the strategic priorities for our association and the profession,” said Warwick Vale, BSc BVMS (Hons II), AVA’s president.
In 2022, the AVA is due to release the organization’s next 5-year strategic plan to cement its vision of being the health and welfare leader in Australia’s animal industries. After conducting the organization’s sixth veterinary workforce survey during 2021,1 the AVA released the analysis of survey results in December, which collated data about the current profile of the veterinary profession and will be used to anticipate future trends and challenges.
The analysis1 showed that, of the 3456 survey respondents who indicated they were currently working in a veterinary role, 80% were working in clinical practice as their primary role. Of the 2762 respondents currently working in a veterinary practice setting, 62% were employed veterinarians. The analysis showed that a large component (45%) indicated they worked 41 or more hours per week, demonstrating the demand on the veterinary profession in Australia.
Australian Veterinary Association Veterinary Workforce Survey 2021. Australian Veterinary Association. December 2021. Accessed January 3, 2022. https://www.ava.com.au/siteassets/news/ava-workforce-survey-analysis-2021-final.pdf