Intro by Emma – I am so excited about this one!
I met this fabulous person at the Australian Vets in Public Health dinner at AVA conference last year. We got chatting about interesting jobs and shared journeys (albeit working on the same issue at different stages) and all the inspiring ways that vets help out… When I asked for her name – Andrea told me and I am pretty sure I let slip – ‘Oh… wow… you are Andrea Britton…!’ in unmasked awe! Oops… hmmm… (not so smooth!)
So it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Andrea today – and for her to give you a glimpse at some of the fabulous work that she has done and is still undertaking – and to highlight some of the great ways vets can make this world a better place….
Welcome Andrea… May I ask… What are you working on/towards at the moment?
Andrea (A): At the moment I’m working on helping deliver the Sustainable Development Goals relating to health and poverty. I am fortunate to have developed collaborative relationships with groups in Asia and am assisting them as a veterinary public health epidemiologist to eliminate dog-mediated human rabies by 2030.
I am also assisting World Health Organisation (WHO) in ensuring effective and safe snake antivenoms for people in Sub Saharan Africa where over 100,000 people die annually from snake envenomation. With my equine veterinary and regulatory science background I am ideally positioned to provide expert advice on improving antivenom production in horses whilst also improving the welfare of the animals involved.
As a One Health advocate I am active in promoting One Health programs within Australia. My rural upbringing on a sheep/beef cattle property in central NSW and working in mixed rural veterinary practise provided first-hand experience on the needs of rural and indigenous Australians. I am keen to improve the health and wellbeing of rural and remote communities by assisting Non-Government Organisation’s (NGOs) like Vets Beyond Borders (Director on Board for 6 years) and AMRRIC (member).
Photo: Visiting CUPA (Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) animal birth control and anti-rabies clinic in Bangalore, India in October 2015 on route to Vets Beyond Borders program in Bylakuppe. Standing beside Dr Shiela Roa (Co-founder) and Mr John, Manager clinic.
What drives you?
A: I am a life-long learner with a passion to study and ensure evidence-based culturally appropriate methods are introduced into One Health programs. I am very driven on programs I am passionate about. Having a supportive family and husband has been essential to my energy and drive. Helping people and animals also provides my strong persistence to keep on going and looking for solutions, at times to my own detriment. People say I’m great at connecting people and maintaining associations. Over the past 29 years since graduating from The University of Sydney vet school, I have slowly realised to make a difference in my professional life I need to stay topped up spiritually through yoga and meditation. Perhaps my biggest motivator is the wish to leave my children and others with a land and world that provides a healthy future for generations to come.
As an example of what drives me. When I was on the Board of Examiners of the AVBC (for 8 years) I counselled a Sudanese veterinarian who had tried for over 10 years to pass the National Veterinary Exam, this vet was trained in agricultural veterinary science and had little experience in small animals/equine and had no contacts to get experience. Through introductions to vets– he gained the necessary experience and confidence and has now been working in rural Victoria for many years – this is what drives me, helping other vets to succeed, providing small opportunities and support and being empathetic.
What have been the major transitions in your path?
A: Studying Agricultural Science at Sydney University (1983) and transferring to Veterinary Science (graduated 1988).
Working as a mixed practice veterinarian (Australia and UK) and then becoming an equine resident stud vet on the second biggest Thoroughbred stud in Australia and then equine vet at Canberra Veterinary Hospital.
Deciding to move to pharmaceutical industry in 1995 started work as Veterinary Services Manager at CSL Limited, working in R and D and regulatory affairs.
Studying for my ANZCVS membership in Epidemiology with 12 other diverse veterinarians (1997), this provided the knowledge to assess and inquire differently about problems on a population basis.
Setting up my own consultancy in 2002 called Ultimate Efficacy Consulting Pty Ltd, to have more flexibility in my professional and personal life (don’t think that actually happened with a baby and 3 year old and 2 nannies).
Working as an epidemiologist and expert witness during the equine influenza outbreak, which provided the motivation to study a Masters of Public Health majoring in epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Population Health at Melbourne University.
Studying part of MPH in India at the Comprehensive Primary Health Project, Jamkhed, where I learnt about taking time to develop trust with people in projects and meeting communities felt needs before addressing project objectives.
Consulting globally for WHO and other organisations using a One Health approach.
What has been a major highlight of your career?
A: A couple have been:
- Helping to conduct trials and writing the registration package for Gudair an Ovine Johnes vaccine for sheep and goats providing farmers like my dad with a control option for this regulated disease, where back in the 1990 many farmers destocked their farms to control this challenging disease.
- Being the only invited Australian to attend the WHO and OIE in collaboration with FAO and GARC, Global Rabies Conference in Geneva last December where 300 world leaders developed a framework to eliminate dog-mediated human rabies by 2030.
- Writing an epidemiology report on how Equine Influenza entered and exited the quarantine station in August 2007, which helped guide an inquiry into this disease incursion. This didn’t feel like a highlight at the time but on reflection it lead to me to studying epidemiology and global health within my MPH.
What advice would you provide a younger you?
A: RELAX, start yoga and meditation and practise mindfulness early in life.
Take each day as it comes and don’t rush. Learn to say “No”, this one I am still learning.
LISTEN to your gut-feeling/intuition as it is almost always right!! Trust yourself and surround yourself with positive, inspirational and empathetic people.
Keep believing in your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be or do something.
It’s OK to FAIL – this one took me half a century to learn. There is nothing wrong with failing this develops resilience and a growth mindset.
Emma: Thanks for your time today Andrea!