When opening the FECAVA EuroCongress in St.Petersburg, I was inwardly smiling to myself and was thinking: “Well, you should have seen me last week in my builder’s overall, cleaning the pipework of our old house in Oxford and hauling rubbish to the local tip…..”
It just showed that the enjoyment of life is often created through contrasts.
The Congress had taken five years of planning and many hours of hard work, mainly by our Russian colleagues, who so desperately wanted to get the event to St.Petersburg. It all had started in fact some 20 years ago when the Russian association joined FECAVA, following an epic trip to Novosibirsk by a mixed team of French, Slovakian and Russian colleagues. Thankfully no limbs were lost due to frostbite and as a result of the trip, the reach of our “European” organisation was extended to Vladivostok…..
Instead of the usual 800 – 1000 delegates, the event this time had attracted over 3000 participants, including circa 1000 delegates from outside of Russia and a fair amount of national and international veterinary students. This I made to the key message in my brief opening presentation: that rather then just gaining knowledge (very important – no question), delegates should take the opportunity to communicate and to network with each other, which at least on an international level appears to be in a decline these days.
A great start was, that the main award at the opening ceremony went to Alexandru Vitalaru, a very entertaining and enthusiastic lecturer from Romania, who had inspired a large number of colleagues – not only in his home country – with his fresh approach towards veterinary nephrology and dialysis.
The scientific programme was arranged by David Senior and featured both European and American speakers. David had to explain the secret of his success at a concurrently held meeting of the prestigious Baltic Forum, sufficiently steadied by the odd water glass of Calvados (!) on the insistence of our Russian hosts and he exhausted not less than three interpreters.
The presence of a large number of veterinary students was so encouraging at this event and the broad spectrum of universities involved was helped by our Student Travel Scholarship programme. But more about that later…..
Among many guests I was able to welcome Geoff Chen
the President of FASAVA, the Federation of Asian Small Animal Veterinary Associations, who had traveled to St.Petersburg from China, following the invitation we extended last year at the WSAVA Congress in Singapure.
The Congress saw also the end of my tenure as FECAVA President,
when I handed over the responsibility for this unique group of amazing people from nearly forty different nations (!) to my friend and colleague Denis Novak.