The Northern Ireland branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVANI) and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) have jointly elected Dr Sharon Verner as their new president.

Following a year as junior vice president of both associations, Verner is stepping into the role of president for the coming year.

Verner was elected during the joint association AGM last night (Thursday, February 22) at the Dunadry Hotel and Gardens, Co. Antrim.

She succeeds Dr Esther Skelly-Smith in the role of president for both BVANI and NIVA, who will now move into the role of senior vice president of the associations for the next year.

Verner’s presidential theme will be ‘Thriving Together’.

On becoming president of the associations, Verner said: “It is an honour to accept this joint position, and a privilege to represent and serve the local veterinary profession.

“I approach the year ahead filled with optimism and determination to build on the fantastic work that the officer teams of both the British Veterinary Association and North of Ireland Veterinary Association have already accomplished.

“There have been plenty of challenges for Northern Ireland’s veterinary profession to overcome in recent years and many of these will continue during my year as president, such as finding a permanent solution to the long-standing, unresolved matter of ensuring continued access to veterinary medicines.”

Verner said she is also looking forward to supporting the veterinary profession in tackling other local issues such as controlling endemic diseases including bovine TB.

As well as this, she aims to lobby for new animal health and welfare legislation including the need for regulation of farriers, and is seeking to champion “the role of the veterinary profession in the future farming policy and in sustainable agri-food production”. 

“I am excited to be stepping into this role and, with the support of my fellow officers, aiming for positive engagement with the newly restored assembly and executive in the coming months,” she said.

Sharon Verner

Verner graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1997 and has worked with Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) for the last seven years, managing the BVD eradication programme.

Her main background is in leading on delivery and technical aspects of animal health schemes, including 15 years in government veterinary service. 

BVANI said she is enthusiastic about improving animal welfare and farm efficiencies through the control of endemic diseases of livestock.

BVA president Anna Judson welcomed Verner into her presidential role.

“The Northern Ireland Branch of BVA has worked incredibly hard in recent times on a number of issues, notably the continued access to veterinary medicines, and I know that Sharon will be no exception to this, having already proved herself to be a highly positive asset as junior vice president,” she said.

“I know she will have many accomplishments in her time as president and am already looking forward to seeing the progress by this time next year.” 

New junior vice president

The officer teams for both associations will be joined by newly elected junior vice president Dr Kirsten Dunbar.

Following studies at Glasgow Vet School, Dunbar’s early years in practice were varied with spells in both equine and small animal practice.

Later joining the Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Service, Dunbar has worked closely with a range of Northern Irish stakeholders and veterinary surgeons in both practice and statutory roles.

She has also undertaken a number of roles in the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland, including operational delivery, development of policy and legislation and as a member of the senior management team.

BVANI said Dunbar is passionate about giving back to all sections of the profession and is looking forward to doing so as junior vice president of the Northern Irish branch.