Dr Bronwyn Orr has been appointed the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) President for 2022/2023, making her the ninth woman and the youngest person to be elected President.

Dr Orr has worked across Australia in private small animal and mixed animal practices, emergency practices, government, shelters, and NGOs. Dr Orr will take over from Dr Warwick Vale, who remains a director on the AVA Board.

The announcement was made following the AVA’s Annual General Meeting, and Dr Orr said it is truly humbling to have such faith placed in her by her colleagues and it’s an honour to serve the profession in this way.

“I’m going to continue building on our relationships with stakeholders across government, industry, and the wider profession and advocate strongly for solutions to some of the wicked problems facing our profession. 

“With major biosecurity risks on our doorstep, ongoing wellness and workforce sustainability issues in the profession and the changing demographics of the veterinary profession, the AVA is going to have a busy 12 months.

“Personally, I’m hoping to improve accountability and transparency in our organisation as well as improve diversity and inclusion, so we better support our veterinary colleagues.”

Dr Orr said there are several challenges facing veterinarians including a general wellness problem, with high rates of mental distress, burnout, and suicide.

“This is the top priority for the AVA over the next 12 months and why we recently launched our Thrive initiative which aims to improve veterinary wellness. However, wellness is a symptom of a wider problem.

“We have high attrition rates in our profession, and a lack of veterinarians in the areas we need them, causing the remaining vets to work under enormous pressure. We will be discussing some of these issues with industry and government to try and get some practical solutions.”

Dr Orr has always had a love for animals. Growing up in North Queensland, she started volunteering at a local dog shelter at 11 years old.

“When I turned 13, I got my first job in the pet industry as the ‘odd jobs girl’ at my local veterinary clinic. I worked here on weekends and school holidays until I turned 17, when I left home for veterinary school.”

Offering advice to aspiring veterinarians, Dr Orr said veterinary school is very different from life as a veterinarian and to just enjoy the ride and focus on getting through.

“Once you qualify as a veterinarian, the world is your oyster. There are so many career opportunities and special interest areas you can delve into, and the best thing is, you can move between these areas as much as you like. Whether it’s clinical work or non-clinical work, keep trying roles until you find the one that suits you best. Being a veterinarian can be an incredibly rewarding career.”

Also announced was the appointment of Dr Alistair Webb as AVA Vice President. Dr Webb is a principal of Rangeside Veterinarians, a small animal practice in Toowoomba, and has held many committee and leadership roles over the past 25 years.

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