Canine neurosurgeon from Switzerland awarded lifetime veterinary award

Professor Franck Forterre, a renowned clinician, teacher and neurosurgeon from Switzerland, has been rewarded for his lifetime commitment to the veterinary field as the latest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 International Canine Health Awards.

Professor Forterre is currently head of small animal surgery and neurosurgery at the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and Guest Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, in Sweden. He has dedicated his career to the development of canine neurosurgery often through describing new treatment concepts and innovative surgical approaches.

Professor Forterre’s work has recently benefited the lives of our canine companions, as well as human health, through the development of a new ceramic and calcium pyrophosphate implant which achieves complete fusion of the vertebral bodies.

While being an active researcher and surgeon, Professor Forterre also prioritises mentoring and inspiring the next generation of veterinary trailblazers through dedicating his time (including lunch breaks!) to all his students – from supporting those struggling with revision, to providing extra opportunities to those excelling beyond the curriculum. His educational presentations also attract veterinary professionals from across the globe.

Professor Forterre is highly praised for his awareness of wider social issues; in 2019 he set up VetHopes, a teaching project to provide free care for dogs of the poor and homeless; he personally invested in the scheme and helped establish fundraising initiatives to provide surgical treatments for dogs not covered by other welfare organisations. Most recently, following the conflict in Ukraine, Professor Forterre hired, with support from the University of Bern, two refugee vets fleeing the conflict so they could work in his department. He is also committed to improving veterinary training in countries where there is a lack of specialists.

On hearing of his Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the International Canine Health Awards 2023, Professor Forterre shared: “I tend to be a discreet person who does not like to show off, so receiving this award was a big surprise for me – at first I could hardly believe it! I am really overwhelmed with pleasure because it will allow me to better carry out the social projects I have set up.  

“On behalf of all the people and animals I will be able to help in the future, I would like to thank the International Canine Health Awards wholeheartedly for this incredible support.”

Running for over ten years, the International Canine Health Awards are the largest awards in the veterinary field worldwide, inspiring scientific innovation and recognising excellence in canine research, health and welfare. Organised and run by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, and with a major financial gift from Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank and the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation, the 2023 awards aim to make a truly global impact – with prize money more than doubled from 2022 and an increased focus on funding projects focussed on the One Health concept and those committed to advancing canine medicine in developing nations.

Applications for the awards are judged by a panel of independent and eminent international veterinarians and scientists. The awards will be presented via a virtual ceremony on Wednesday 12 July, 15:00 BST, with further details available to those who register their interest here.

This year, the International Canine Health Awards created a Special Award category to recognise the work of three extraordinary veterinary clinics in war-torn Ukraine, and each will receive a $20,000 prize fund to support their work. In addition, five individual winners have been selected in the following categories: the Alan Kelly International Award with a prize of $100,000; the Lifetime Achievement Award with a prize of $50,000; the two Student Inspiration Awards, undergraduate and postgraduate with a prize of $20,000 for the postgraduate and $10,000 for the undergraduate winners; and The Kennel Club’s Breed Health Co-ordinator Prize –  the winner of which receives £5,000.

Dr Andrew Higgins, Chairman of the International Canine Health Awards panel and trustee of The Kennel Club Charitable Trust which organises the awards commented: “The impressive lifetime commitment made by Professor Forterre to canine medicine is evident in his long list of achievements. It was particularly inspiring to hear about the variety of ways he contributes so modestly to the field, through his clinical work, research, mentoring of students and his amazing social contributions. We would like to wish him many congratulations on being selected for this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank, and whose major gift from the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation underwrites the awards, said: “Professor Forterre wonderfully exemplifies what the Lifetime Achievement Award represents. This year the awards are focussing on One Health and the global canine community, and Professor Forterre’s wider philanthropic work with homeless communities, Ukraine refugees and surgical developments to help humans and canines really stood out.”

Find out about the International Canine Health Awards.