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Arpita Bhose, World Small Animal Veterinary Association

Landing on all paws

Arpita Bhose tells Rob Spalding how the job of CEO at WSAVA virtually dropped into her lap – like a neighbourhood cat…

RS           How has WSAVA changed over the three years you have been in charge?

AB          Since I joined, we have welcomed 23 new national member associations, increased the head count of the secretariat and added many new member benefits.  We have also produced more Global Guidelines, added educational resources and formed new partnerships.

RS           How did you get the job?

AB          Whilst living in Singapore, I worked with the Singapore Veterinary Association on a couple of projects and got to know its President. When I returned to the UK, he had joined the WSAVA board and contacted me to ask if I would be interested in applying for the position of CEO. It was a great opportunity because the veterinary community is so inclusive and welcoming. and it was wonderful to still be working on a global scale.

RS           What took you to Singapore in the first place?

AB          I moved to Singapore with my husband’s job and after six months was getting very frustrated trying to find work. By chance, at a social event, I got chatting to a friendly Canadian woman who happened to be the business director of the Singapore Economic Development Board. She’d been instrumental in bringing Kenes International to Singapore and they were looking for someone to head up their office. She thought I exactly fitted the personnel spec. The next day I had an interview and a week later I started work. We went from no clients to six key accounts within the first few months. I had to travel extensively and immerse myself in new cultures. I thrived on it!

RS           You appear to have remained loyal to the not-for-profit sector…

AB          Not-for-profit is a good fit for my personality. I have witnessed the profound difference volunteer organisations can make and want to be part of it.  I get to work with inspiring people focused on improving things for their community.  And all this in addition to their day jobs.

RS           And how are you finding it at WSAVA?

AB          I’ve always worked in human healthcare organisations so it’s been very interesting to learn about a new discipline. Although the subject matter is different, at heart it’s the same. Associations are driven by the commitment of volunteers who engage in a shared vision. For WSAVA it’s about improving the lives of companion animals – and supporting the veterinarians who care for them.  We achieve this through the work of our committees and the resources we create.

RS           Do you ever get involved in the subject matter?

AB          There are several ‘one health’ issues that affect animals and people. For instance, we are working on projects to tackle lack of access to therapeutic drugs and to fulfill the pledge to eliminate deaths from canine rabies by 2030.

There is a big problem with depression within the veterinary profession which has higher than average suicide rates.  The heavy workloads and the burden of constant compassion has seen growing problems with mental health issues. WSAVA has a professional wellness group that provides members with the support they need.

RS           How old is WSAVA and did it carry baggage?

AB          This year is the sixtieth anniversary of WSAVA. Because there had only been a permanent secretariat in place for a few years, some of its processes were a little unwieldy and there were gaps in internal policies which we have addressed. Our communication with our members – and the wider veterinary community – is now vastly improved and we can see this through the greater interaction with our members and the increased interest from the media, governments and other stakeholders.

RS           Where is WSAVA based? Do you have a long commute?

AB          I have a very short commute. Just downstairs to my home office! WSAVA is registered in Canada but I am based in London. Working from home has many advantages but it can sometimes feel a little isolating so it’s really nice when I meet up with the board and colleagues, which happens regularly throughout the year.

RS           Are you expected to travel a lot?

AB          I’m very lucky in that I do get to travel a fair bit. We hold an annual congress in a different country every year, so there are site visits for future congresses, face to face Board meetings and trips to meet our members at their regional events.

RS           What is your biggest frustration with the job?

AB          It’s a problem shared by many associations.  We have so much we want to do to, but with a very small staff head count, we have to be realistic. Having said that, I’m very proud of what we have achieved in the last few years and there is great satisfaction in delivering quality output on a small budget.

RS           Do you have a companion animal of your own?

AB          I’ve recently moved house, so no I don’t, but I never know which of the neighbourhood cats is going to be popping in through an open window…