The Northern Ireland (NI) branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) have jointly elected Fiona McFarland as their new president.

During a joint annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, February 9, Fiona succeeded Mark Little as president of BVA NI and was elected incoming president for NIVA. Fiona said it was an "absolute pleasure and honour" to accept the joint position.

"I’ve been involved with both organisations for some years and am very grateful to have been able to learn from those who have been in this position in the past," she said.

"I’ve benefited from both organisations throughout my career and it’s a privilege to be able to give something back to our members and the profession."

Fiona McFarland is the account manager for Ireland North with IMV Imaging, where she provides advice, education, training and resources in diagnostic imaging to veterinary clinics and customers in the agricultural industry. She has 18 years of experience in clinical practice since graduating from Bristol Veterinary School in 2014.

Fiona, who grew up on a sheep farm in Co. Antrim, has been an active council member of NIVA since 2014 including holding the role of press officer, has sat on BVA’s Members Services group and BVA Policy Committee and is a past president of the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS).

Speaking about what she hopes to achieve in her time as president, she said:

“My main aim for the year ahead is to steer our associations into the new normal we are faced with whilst continuing to navigate the pandemic. Accompanied by the effects of Brexit, Northern Ireland faces some difficult challenges, not only within the profession itself, but within the Agri-Food industry.

"My theme for the year will be sustainability: both that of the profession and workforce, but also how vets play a pivotal role in sustainable agriculture.

“I am focussed on continuing to provide support to all our members and ensure we keep all channels of communication active and effective within our profession but most importantly within NIVA, BVA, government, industry and the farming community.

"We need to continue to stand together as one voice and look at the wider implications of everything we do as veterinarians. I aim to help shape changes in policy, build relationships and continue to have open conversations with each and every stakeholder wherever possible.”

Fiona will be joined on the BVA NI branch team by succeeding junior vice-president and fellow NIVA council member, Esther Skelly-Smith.

Esther graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2012, before interning at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. In 2017, she established Shanaghan Veterinary Services which is Ireland’s first equine integrated veterinary referral service.

She is very active in representation and currently holds many roles notably as BVA NI regional representative, equine expert on the College Advisory Group for College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), member of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Interim Equine Forum, and Ulster Farmers' Union Next Generation Development Forum member. 

She is also an Honorary Lecturer with Queen’s University Belfast working with students during their research placement and lecturing on equine welfare.