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Getting involved in the bigger picture

18 Dec 2020 | Daniella Dos Santos


Daniella Dos Santos shares how getting involved in veterinary politics improved her work life and made her career more fulfilling, and why it was so important that her workplace culture was supportive of her choices.

Getting involved in the bigger picture Image

It is very easy to get bogged down in the day to day routine of work, whether it is clinical or non-clinical work. We spend so much time focusing on what we “need” to do, we forget about what we “could” do, and how it may improve our work life and make it more fulfilling.

I’ve always been passionate about animal welfare, and part of the reason I went into exotic animal practice was not because of the weird and wonderful creatures, or because I had ever owned any exotic pets myself, but because of what a vet in practice once said to me. If I could educate one tortoise owner on how to care for their tortoise properly, I would give that tortoise 60+ years of a good life. It dawned on me that I could have a real, tangible and long-term impact of the welfare of exotic pet species. So, after qualifying I went into small animal and exotic pet practice. I love clinical practice, the relationships I build with team members and clients, the clinical challenges it brings, but I felt there was something missing. I felt my day to day work wasn’t enough when it comes to animal welfare. I felt like I wasn’t making a big enough impact.

The first step to a more fulfilling career

I saw an advert in the Vet Record looking for volunteers to join their ethics and welfare panel, and it struck me as an opportunity to play a part bigger part when it came to improving animal welfare. I could tell everyone about tortoise welfare and get it on BVA’s agenda!

During my time on the Ethics and Welfare Panel, I began to get more involved in and develop a greater understanding of policy development. We considered ethical and welfare impacts across species and policy areas, allowing me to appreciate the impact of policies on welfare from perspectives I had never considered before, but also the wider ethical implications of those policies. The bigger picture looks beyond the individual animal or group of animals to the impact on the environment, economy, human health and other animals, for example. I finally felt that I was doing something more with my degree, and my volunteering gave me a greater sense of achievement.

I had no idea where it would lead and how it would change my career path. What started as a voluntary position with four meetings a year led to me being the BVA President during a pandemic, and in the process learning and using skills I never knew I had (or needed!). I can honestly say it was the first step to a more fulfilled career.

A supportive culture

The reality is, this was only possible because my clinical employers realised the value of allowing me the time, space and flexibility to pursue my interests outside of work. In enabling me to do so, it meant I was more focused and present at work, as I was able to split my time effectively between all my interests, and share knowledge from both sectors. The flexibility my employers granted me allowed me to support not only my clients and patients, but also give back to society and the wider profession.

Being a BVA Officer has been the highlight of my career, and I have learnt so much. I have met incredible people, and my desire to impact the bigger picture when it comes to animal welfare has ended up being so much more than that. I have been involved in policy development, given evidence to government committees, done media work and taken part in lobbying work. But the greatest of all: I got to represent our incredible profession, and even lead through a global pandemic. It doesn’t get more ‘big picture’ than that.

I didn’t know I could do this role, in fact, I didn’t even know I ever wanted to do it. One thing I can say for sure, it is the best thing I have ever done, and I would encourage anyone to consider applying.


Interested in volunteering with BVA? We're currently looking for our next Junior Vice President. Find out more on our website and apply by 11 Jan 2021. 


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