Reflections on AVA 2013

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Longer after the event than I had planned, but here are my highlights and impressions of AVA 2013, in roughly chronological order. Some of the sessions I have blogged about, others I’ve not previously mentioned.

The opening plenary given by Craig Rispin (blog report here) was a real eye-opener. The view from someone with an eye for the future but without the baggage of involvement in the veterinary industry to cloud that outlook was very valuable.

The continued focus on animal welfare was appropriate given its importance.   John Webster in 2012 followed by Temple Grandin this year—what a treat. Temple’s sessions were so popular an audio link was set up in an adjoining area to allow more people to participate. Her apparent ability to see the world from the animal’s perspective, which she believes is strongly related to her autism, was full of common sense and empathy.

The highlighting of the importance of physical and particularly mental health of veterinarians and vet students is a sad necessity and so difficult to address. The ‘you could hear a pin drop’ moments of the conference belonged to John Jacobson as he slowly revealed during his plenary, meekly titled The future of the profession – staying healthy and happy’, that he had been severely drug-addicted. The trauma it caused he, his family and his profession over a long period caused him to change his career focus and I’m certain he has made a difference to many lives since becoming a counsellor.

As befits a conference themed ’Into the Future’ there was a much greater focus on the use of technology within practices, particularly for marketing, than at last year’s event. I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to deliver my proposed session on Web 2.0 tools for professional development, as I thought it would fit well into the theme but I will submit the proposal again next year. For the first time there was a stand in the exhibition for an app and I expect over the next few years that these will become more common.

Overall the topics in the education stream (blog report here) were less relevant to my interests than last year, although many of the posters in particular were excellent (blog report here). The presentation from which I learned most was Corinna Klupiec’s ‘A blended approach to veterinary anatomy teaching’. Not only did it cover the approach of the anatomy teaching team but Corinna gave a great summary of the pros and cons of different blends of learning strategies.

The special interest group VERA (veterinarians in education, research and academia), which was formed officially at AVA 2012, held its first AGM and inaugural dinner in Cairns. The dinner was well attended and a great opportunity to get to know group members.

As always at a conference, highlights were having the chance to meet new people, renew old friendships and in this case, to escape the imminent southern winter to enjoy the balmy warmth of far North Queensland for a few days. Thanks to my husband, children and parents for giving me the opportunity.

I continued with my strategy from 2012 of using Twitter as the immediate backchannel and the blog as a more permanent and detailed record of events. There were a few more regular tweeters this year than last but still only a tiny percentage of the delegates. There have been quite a few views of my blog in the days after I have added new posts, which is great. I really hope that people use the reports and ideas to start conversations with their colleagues, to consider new strategies for teaching or utilise them in any other that will help improve the welfare of patients and of the profession.

I hope to attend AVA 2014 in Perth and be able to provide a backchannel and create conversations. It’s fascinating how many connections can be made and how innovations can develop from sharing ideas.


About rebekahmcbrown

I am a veterinarian with a special interest in instructional design and developing eLearning in the veterinary and medical areas. I write teaching materials for both face-to-face and online learning as well as writing and editing articles.
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