Hertfordshire Professor Wins International Award For Ground-breaking Work in Veterinary Neurology

Dr Holger Volk, from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in Hertfordshire, has won an international award as part of one of the largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in the world, for his work within veterinary neurology, particularly his pioneering research and ground-breaking work into canine epilepsy.

Professor Volk, who was one of the youngest ever to be made a Chair within his field at the RVC, is currently Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery and Clinical Director of Small Animals at RVC as well as president of the European College of Veterinary Neurology. Professor Volk has won the coveted International Award category at the International Canine Health Awards, where he was awarded £40,000 towards his future work.

The awards, run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by  a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metro Bank, highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science.

This year’s awards were presented to winners by Steve Dean, recently appointed Chairman of Trustees of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, on Friday 15th April 2016 at the Kennel Club in London, on behalf of the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation.

The awards were for the International Award, for which Professor Volk was awarded a prize of £40,000; the Lifetime Achievement Award, which received a prize of £10,000; and Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Inspiration Awards, with the winners of each awarded £5,000.

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.

In 2014, he initiated and chaired the formation of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Taskforce (IVETF), in which he organised the congregation of more than 25 international scientists and vets from across the world in order to set out unified and standardised guidelines for the research, diagnosis and treatment of canine and feline epilepsy, including creating seven consensus statements published in BMC Veterinary Research in 2015. This was a first in veterinary neurology, significantly impacting research within the field and giving Professor Volk further international recognition.

Professor Volk is also a practising veterinary surgeon, performing complex neurological surgeries in the evening whilst being on call over the weekends, all of which he does in between his academic and personal duties. He has supported multiple canine breed clubs in his ground-breaking work on syringomyelia and canine epilepsy, including the Cavalier Kings Charles Spaniel, German Shepherd Dog, English Bulldog and Dachshund clubs. 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 and his career, 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.”

The awards were judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. These included Professor Steve Dean, Chairman of Trustees, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust; Dr Andrew Higgins, Honorary Editor-in-Chief at the Veterinary Journal; Nick Blayney, veterinary surgeon and veterinary advisor to the Kennel Club; Professor Donald Kelly, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool; Professor John Innes, UK Referral Director at CVS; Professor David Argyle, Dean of Veterinary Medicine and Head of School at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh; Professor Robin Franklin, Professor of Stem Cell Medicine at Cambridge University; Professor Alan Kelly, Emeritus Dean, Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; and Professor Bennie Osburn, Emeritus Dean, UC Davies School of Veterinary Medicine.

Steve Dean, recently appointed Chairman of Trustees of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: “Dr Volk’s contribution to veterinary neurology is outstanding, especially all the work he has put into canine epilepsy. Not only has he proved himself within the field to his peers but has significantly established his fantastic work to the veterinary world by initiating the International Veterinary Epilepsy Taskforce. He represents everything this award is about and we are excited to see what he will do next, as his work is truly transforming dogs’ lives.”

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards said: “Congratulations to Professor Volk – keep up the great work.”

Nominations are currently being sought for the next awards which will be presented at a ceremony at the Kennel Club in London on 24th May 2017. With a prize fund totalling £65,000, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust is urging people to nominate themselves or their peers by 13th February 2017. The awards will be judged by representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research, including experts in each of the nominees' selected fields. For more information about how to apply visit the Kennel Club website now.

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