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Winners of Europe's Most Prestigious Veterinary Awards Revealed

18 April 2016    09:00
From L-R - David Singleton, Steve Dean, Vernon Hill, Sir Duffield, Shirley Hill, Natalie Gibbons, Prof Mike Herrtage and Prof Holger Volk

Scientists transforming dog health win International Canine Health Awards

A leading veterinary neurologist, a pre-eminent diagnostic imaging expert, a PhD student researching ways to combat antimicrobial resistance, and a canine pathology student have today each received one of the largest veterinary awards in the world for the role they are playing in transforming dog health.

The International Canine Health Awards, run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust were held on 15 April at the Kennel Club in London. This year's awards were presented to Professor Holger Volk, Clinical Director of the RVC Small Animal Referral Hospital and Professor of Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery; Professor Mike Herrtage, Dean of the Cambridge Veterinary School and Professor of Small Animal Medicine; University of Liverpool PhD student, David Singleton; and canine pathology undergraduate student, Natalie Gibbons.

The winners were given prize money to further their work in the field of canine research, underwritten by a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metro Bank. Professor Holger Volk was awarded £40,000 for the International Award, Professor Mike Herrtage was awarded £10,000 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and students David Singleton and Natalie Gibbons were each granted £5,000 for the Postgraduate Student Inspiration Award and Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award respectively.

Launched at Crufts in 2012, the International Canine Health Awards were developed to recognise and reward innovative researchers, veterinary scientists and students who are significantly impacting the health and well-being of dogs. The awards are judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. The winners have won awards for their work in the following areas:

Professor Holger Volk - The 2016 recipient of the International Award was recognised for the progressive work he has carried out in the field of veterinary neurology and neurosurgery. He is currently the Clinical Director and Professor of Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Royal Veterinary College as well as the President of the European College of Veterinary Neurology.

Known for his work in canine epilepsy, Professor Volk has covered many topics within the field, including a study on diets to aid seizure control; an ongoing project on behavioural epilepsy co-morbidities; studies into quality of life issues for dogs and owners; and he has helped to launch a new anti-epileptic drug. 

Professor Volk is also a practising veterinary surgeon and has supported multiple canine breed clubs in his ground-breaking work on syringomyelia and canine epilepsy. He regularly engages with canine epilepsy support groups such as the Phyllis Croft Foundation and Blu's Tale Foundation, and represents canine health and welfare in working groups for the International League Against Epilepsy and the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

In 2015, Professor Volk co-developed the first ever smartphone app to manage canine epilepsy. The RVC Epilepsy Tracker was launched to improve the owner's management of their dog's epilepsy, and to use the data from the app to advance our understanding of the disease.

He has a track record of innovative research with impact and has published more than 150 peer reviewed publications and 200 research abstracts, written multiple book chapters within his field, and is a popular speaker for national and international conferences.

Speaking about the award, Professor Volk said: "I feel very honoured to have received the award. It caught me by surprise that the highly respected Kennel Club would endorse our work by giving me this award. I am grateful for all the amazing colleagues, breeders and pet owners for their passion to help battle animal diseases and for making a difference on a daily basis. Without everyone's support, our work could never have been achieved or have an impact. The journey has just begun and we will continue our research work to improve animal welfare."

Professor Mike Herrtage - The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award has been honoured for his major contribution to veterinary scholarship and research. The Dean of the Cambridge Veterinary School is internationally recognised as a leading expert in diagnostic imaging and small animal medicine.

The widely published professor's research has covered a broad range of topics over the span of a 40-year career. Professor Herrtage is a specialist in small animal medicine and diagnostic imaging with a focus on the field of metabolic and endocrine diseases. He has developed diagnostic tests for a number of novel inherited metabolic diseases which have comparative links to human disease, including copper toxicosis in Bedlington Terriers and fucosidosis in English Springer Spaniels. He has also improved the diagnosis and management of canine and feline diabetes and helped increase the industry's understanding of the pathogenesis of canine diabetes and endocrine responses in critical illness.

Professor Herrtage has been instrumental in developing the residency programmes in Small Animal Medicine and in Diagnostic Imaging at Cambridge. These programmes have been immensely successful and have brought national and international recognition to the University. During his career he has successfully supervised 58 Diplomates, four doctoral and two master's students and has examined seven PhD students and four master's students. Three of his residents and two of his PhD students have been awarded international prizes for their clinical research.

Professor Herrtage has held a selection of prestigious positions, including President of the ECVIM, President of the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation, President of the BSAVA, President of the European Society of Veterinary Endocrinology and President of the British Veterinary Radiological Association (now the ECVDI).

After receiving his award, Professor Herrtage said: "I was surprised and overwhelmed to have been nominated for this auspicious award. It is a fantastic honour and one that I would dedicate to my colleagues, residents and students who have stimulated and supported me through my career, as well as my patients who have challenged and continue to challenge me.

"I am going to continue to supervise residents in internal medicine and diagnostic imaging and shall use the award so that my residents achieve their goal of veterinary specialisation so that they can continue my work."

David Singleton - The 2016 Postgraduate Student Inspiration Award winner has been recognised for the research he is doing into antimicrobial resistance in dogs and other animals. His current work is focusing on the national surveillance of antimicrobial prescription and resistance in pet companion animals, an increasingly pressing issue which is impacting animal health and welfare.

Working alongside the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET), with support from the BSAVA, Veterinary Medicines Directorate  and University of Liverpool, the PhD student hopes his work will lead to a world-first for canine health by linking real-time electronic results via SAVSNET with state-of-the-art laboratory analysis from his lab work in Liverpool.

David said: "I am thrilled to be the recipient of the Postgraduate Student Inspiration Award. This will enable me to pilot real-time epidemiological and advanced laboratory-based antimicrobial resistance surveillance in dogs and other companion animals in the UK.  Antimicrobial resistance is a significant issue of increasing importance to both human and animal health, which will need a truly collaborative approach to tackle.

"I am excited to have the opportunity to work with several veterinary diagnostic laboratories, and it is great to see organisations like the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, SAVSNET, BSAVA, the University of Liverpool and the Kennel Club, committing to support research in this crucial area."

Natalie Gibbons - Natalie received the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award for her proposed research in to the phenotypic and functional characterisation of canine monocytes, an area which has not yet been explored in depth.

The project, led by Professor Oliver Garden at the Royal Veterinary College where Natalie is currently studying an intercalated degree in comparative pathology, will theoretically result in the development of new therapeutic targets for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in dogs. These treatments may be curative or at the very least will significantly improve patient care for any dog suffering from such a disease.

Natalie said: "I am very grateful to have won this award which enables me to undertake exciting work on canine monocytes in Professor Oliver Garden's Immune Regulation Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College's Camden Campus. In common with most bench-side immunological research, the investigation of canine monocytes is resource-intense. This award will enable us to continue this important research, which will contribute to our understanding of monocytes in health and disease. The opportunity to work in a vibrant, world-renowned research environment and to make a contribution towards improving the quality of life of a species we all love is very exciting."

Steve Dean, recently appointed Chairman of Trustees of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: "The winners of these awards are four truly remarkable people. They are working tirelessly to aid our understanding of canine diseases and other important heath issues. The work they carry out in their respective fields will have significant impact for the health of dogs in the future and, in certain cases, for the human population as well.

"These winners are dedicating their lives to continued improvement of canine health by sharing their knowledge and expertise with others. We could not have hoped for more deserving winners and we thank them for helping us to transform dog health through science and tireless hard work."

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards commented: "We are pleased to recognise these great people whose work benefits both animals and humans."


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