The British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) Northern Ireland Branch and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) have jointly elected Dr. Sharon Verner as their new President.

This announcement follows Sharon’s one-year tenure as Junior Vice President of both associations.

Dr. Verner, a graduate of the University of Cambridge in 1997, brings a wealth of experience to the role. Over the past seven years, she has worked with Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI), managing the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) eradication programme. With a background encompassing 15 years in government veterinary service, Sharon is passionate about enhancing animal welfare and farm efficiencies through the control of endemic livestock diseases.

Annual General Meeting and Succession

The joint association Annual General Meeting, held at the Dunadry Hotel and Gardens in Antrim on Thursday, 22 February 2024, marked the official transition of leadership. Dr. Verner succeeds equine vet Dr. Esther Skelly-Smith in the role of President for both BVA Northern Ireland Branch and NIVA. Now, Dr. Skelly-Smith will take on the position of Senior Vice President for the upcoming year.

Dr. Verner’s presidency will be under the theme ‘Thriving Together.’ In her statement, she expressed optimism and determination to build on the accomplishments of the officer teams from both associations. Addressing challenges faced by Northern Ireland’s veterinary profession, including access to veterinary medicines, controlling endemic diseases like bovine TB, and advocating for new animal health and welfare legislation, Dr. Verner aims for positive engagement with the restored Assembly and Executive.

Future Priorities

Dr. Verner acknowledged the outstanding contributions of the outgoing President, Dr. Esther Skelly-Smith, Past President and Honorary Secretary Mark Little, and outgoing Senior Vice President Fiona McFarland. Their efforts have been pivotal in addressing critical issues, particularly securing progress on the veterinary medicines’ access matter. Dr. Verner will continue the work to find a permanent solution to ensure continued access to veterinary medicines, as the grace period ends at the close of 2025.

The officer teams for both associations will be joined by newly elected Junior Vice President Dr. Kirsten Dunbar. Dr. Dunbar, with diverse experiences in equine and small animal practice and roles in the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Service and Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland, is eager to contribute to the profession’s well-being.

BVA President’s Welcome

BVA President Anna Judson welcomed Dr. Sharon Verner into her presidential role, acknowledging the dedication and hard work of the Northern Ireland Branch in addressing various issues, particularly the crucial matter of continued access to veterinary medicines.

As part of the network of devolved and specialist divisions, BVA Branches like the Northern Ireland Branch contribute local knowledge and expertise to BVA’s broader lobbying and representational activities.