British Veterinary LGBT: Henry's story

Posted on February 08, 2018 by Henry L’Eplattenier

Henry L’Eplattenier mainTelling our stories, making our own history
LGBT History Month

Name: Dr Henry L’Eplattenier DrMedVet PhD DipECVS MRCVS

Qualified as: a veterinary surgeon from the University of Bern (Switzerland) in 1988.

Area of work: after graduation, I obtained my Swiss doctorate on alternatives to animal experimentation whilst working for a large Swiss pharmaceutical company. Then I worked in a mixed practice in the Swiss mountains before embarking on an internship and residency in Small Animal Surgery at Zurich University. I obtained my diploma of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS) in 1998 then moved to Norway to join my partner. After a period of time learning the language, I joined the Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences as a lecturer in Small Animal Surgery. In 2001, I moved to Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where I completed a PhD on prostate cancer in dogs. In 2006, I moved to the UK and joined VRCC Veterinary Referrals as a consultant surgeon. In 2017, with the acquisition of the clinic (now called Southfields Veterinary Specialists) by the Linnaeus Group, I became Clinical Director.

I have held several functions in the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS): member and Chair of the Exam Committee, Regent of the Board, President-Elect, President and I am currently Chair of the Board of the College. 

What inspired your path into the veterinary profession?

I think I am like a lot of vets in that I have always wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember. It was not even the fact of having pets that gave me the idea. I think my family ended up having a cat because I wanted to be a vet and not the other way around. 

I used to visit the local small animal practice on Saturdays when I was at school and it was the vet there who inspired me to become interested in surgery. Paradoxically, this was not because he was himself interested in surgery, but because as a general practitioner, he felt he lacked surgical skills and regretted not having had more training in surgery. His advice to me was to become experienced in surgery, then I would not have to refer so many cases in the future, when I would be in practice myself. I was far from imagining at the time that this advice would later lead me to becoming a specialist.

What has been the most challenging part of your career?

My current position as Clinical Director at Southfields Veterinary Specialists is without doubt the most challenging so far in my career. It requires so many different skills than the ones needed to be a good specialist. It requires leadership, risk taking, the ability to plan ahead, knowledge of other specialities and an understanding of veterinary business in a world where corporate groups, technological progress, rising costs of (specialist) treatment and the feminisation of the profession are all in their own way causing significant and rapid changes.

What has been the best part of your career so far?

I don’t know about the best part, but the best decision of my career was to sit the board exam of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS). At the time, in 1998, the specialist colleges were in their infancy, with only few of them established, and nobody really knew how significant a specialist title such as a diploma of a European specialist college would become in the following years. I was considering going into general practice and thought that maybe a qualification as an experienced small animal practitioner might be more useful than a specialist title nobody had heard of. In the end, after completing my residency, I opted for the specialist board exam as I thought that if I did not sit it then, I would probably never sit it at all. I’ve never regretted it since every step of my career since then has benefited from that decision!

What are your proudest achievements of your career?

One of the proudest achievement of my career was being elected to become President of the ECVS. After serving the College for several years, first in the Exam Committee, then as Regent of the Board, to have the recognition of one’s peers for one’s contribution to the College in such a way is an incredible honour and a privilege.

Defending my PhD thesis in the beautiful 15th century Renaissance style Utrecht University Hall in the middle of Utrecht old town, in front of family, friends and colleagues was also a particularly proud moment.

What advice would you offer to someone experiencing difficulty with their sexuality or gender identity?

No matter how unique you think your situation might be, remember that you are not alone and that others have experienced the same difficulties and have faced the same questions as you. The biggest hurdle is accepting yourself for who you are. Speak about your situation to people you trust and you will find that it will help you forge incredibly strong friendships. Reach out to others within the LGBT+ community, we have all been through similar experiences and are more than happy to provide help and support when we can.

What advice would you give to your younger self and why?

I did not come out until I was nearly 30, therefore I would say, do not underestimate the power of denial and the ability of your mind to make up reasons for not coming out. Do not put off coming out for silly reasons, thinking things will sort themselves out eventually. Things don’t sort themselves out on their own, you need to take control of your life.

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Henry L’Eplattenier

Written by Henry L’Eplattenier

DrMedVet PhD DipECVS MRCVS

Henry obtained his Swiss doctorate on alternatives to animal experimentation whilst working for a Swiss pharmaceutical company. He obtained his diploma of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS) in 1998. He joined the Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences as a lecturer in Small Animal Surgery. In 2001, he moved to Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where he completed a PhD on prostate cancer in dogs. In 2017, with the acquisition of the clinic (now called Southfields Veterinary Specialists) by the Linnaeus Group, he became Clinical Director.

Henry has held several functions in the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS): member and Chair of the Exam Committee, Regent of the Board, President-Elect, President and is currently Chair of the Board of the College.