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Veterinary scene Down Under: New veterinary school, plus AVA Veterinary Thought Leader of the Year and more


Plans for a new veterinary school to commence at Southern Cross University; and Dr Alicia Kennedy named Veterinary Thought Leader of the Year

Southern Cross University’s new veterinary school

Helen McGregor, BVMS, PhD, senior lecturer veterinary medicine at Southern Cross University (Photo courtesy of Helen McGregor).

Helen McGregor, BVMS, PhD, senior lecturer veterinary medicine at Southern Cross University (Photo courtesy of Helen McGregor).

The multi-campus Southern Cross University (SCU) has advised the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council and the Veterinary Schools Accreditation Advisory Committee that it plans to commence a new 5-year undergraduate veterinary program (BVetMed) in 2025 at its Lismore campus in New South Wales. It is anticipated SCU will graduate approximately 50 new veterinarians per year from 2029, and 30 veterinary technicians per year from 2027.

“SCU is responding to the unmet demand for veterinarians, particularly those trained and with aptitude and interest in working in regional and rural Australia. Reform in veterinary education is required, and SCU is taking the opportunity to respond to recommendations in the recent 'Rethinking Veterinary Education' report1 released by the Veterinary Schools of Australia and New Zealand, and incorporate feedback from the profession for course design, development and delivery,” explained Helen McGregor, BVMS, PhD, senior lecturer veterinary medicine at SCU, exclusively to dvm360®.

“SCU already has and continues to develop strong regional partnerships which support this approach. For example, opportunity exists to showcase and grow relationships with SCU’s National Marine Science Centre, regional wildlife nodes and networks, and regional professionals and businesses in agricultural and companion animal industries.”

Existing SCU infrastructure in Lismore will be utilized, with some facilities modified or refurbished to support delivery of the new BVetMed program. SCU is seeking to develop regional partnerships and is exploring opportunities within the region to support undergraduate veterinary students studying in the new veterinary school.

“The purpose and intention of SCU is to train confident, competent graduates who are motivated, team players, selected for and supported in their training and skill development to be ‘workplace ready.’ Development of curriculum content will be through a process of participatory design with the profession,” said McGregor. “Co-delivery of curriculum content will be through collaboration with ‘PracAdemics’—practicing veterinarians—engaged in dual careers in academia and practice, bringing contemporary content and experience into the curriculum whilst continuing in their current professional roles.”

Workplace embedded learning will be a core feature of the curriculum design, with students having access to regional facilities via partnerships with SCU for teaching, clinical training, and paid employment, within a calendar of 6-week terms and 2 subjects per term.

“From their first year, students will be supported and facilitated to engage with part time work in veterinary and animal related businesses, supporting the development of positive role models, professional identity, and confidence in the practicalities of these working environments,” said McGregor.

“It is an exciting opportunity to be involved from the beginning, in the development of these new courses, and to be able to deliver a course designed to meet the current and future needs of the profession. How we support, embrace, and integrate student veterinarians into our profession as peers is critical and something I am passionate about. All this and in the natural paradise of the Northern Rivers region!”

Veterinary Thought Leader of the Year 2023

The Australian Veterinary Association Veterinary Business Group Awards winners 2023 (Photo courtesy of the Australian Veterinary Association).

The Australian Veterinary Association Veterinary Business Group Awards winners 2023 (Photo courtesy of the Australian Veterinary Association).

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Veterinary Business Group has announced Alicia Kennedy, BSc, BVMS, as the Veterinary Thought Leader of the Year 2023.2 Kennedy is the founder of Cherished Pets, a unique social veterinary enterprise with the mission of making the benefits of healthy companion pets and a thriving human-animal bond accessible to all people.

Since establishing Cherished Pets in 2015, Kennedy’s innovative approach to veterinary business places the human-animal bond at the center of veterinary service design and delivery while bringing a tangible upstream solution to the profession’s mental health crisis through the introduction of the veterinary social worker role.

“My vision is a world where the human animal bond is recognized and valued for the vital role it plays in healthy and connected individuals and communities. Veterinary social work is an emerging field of practice that bridges a gap between human health and animal welfare and provides a resource and referral pathway to veterinary teams to manage humans in veterinary practice,” explained Kennedy to dvm360.

“I am deeply grateful for this award which honors the really hard work that has been put in by the Cherished Pets team over the past 8 years. One of our favorite sayings is that ‘we are flying the plane while we are building it,’ which can make work life quite stressful at times. A huge amount of grit and determination has gone into creating our own ecosystem of funded care and support. This award is endorsing our efforts and boosting our energy to keep working hard towards our shared vision.”

In 2022, the Victorian State Government invested over AUD $500,000 into Kennedy’s Cherished Pet’s program to help further develop their services.3 “As a result of this investment, we have been able to go to the next level, improve our model and start measuring our impact better. We have learned so much through this process, and what we know for sure is that our service is filling a much-needed gap in our community, and bringing solutions to the vet industry,” said Kennedy.

“I want to do broader and more impactful advocacy nationally and see a version of our Cherished Pets model of care embraced beyond our corner of the world through a national social service agency revolving around the human-animal bond. We have worked some magic here in our community and I want to share this so that more pets and people can benefit.”

Find out more about Cherished Pets innovative work here:https://www.cherishedpetcare.com.au

The Veterinary Business Group also awarded Penny Seet, BSc, BVMS, MANZCVS, from Perth Vet Emergency as Veterinary Business Professional of the Year 2023, and Moe Veterinary Centre in Victoria was awarded Veterinary Business of the Year 2023.


  1. Rethinking veterinary education. Veterinary Schools of Australia and New Zealand. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://vsanz.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/VSANZ_Rethinking-Vet-Ed_Low-Res-FINAL-CLEAN.pdf
  2. Celebrating excellence: 2023 Veterinary Business Awards. Australian Veterinary Association. September 22, 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.ava.com.au/member-updates/Newsletter/2023-veterinary-business-awards
  3. More support for vulnerable pet owners. Premier of Victoria. May 3, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/more-support-vulnerable-pet-owners
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