Introduction by Emma: I feel that Debbie needs no introduction ?!
Dr Deborah Neutze, immediate ex- National Strategy and Media Manager as AVA staff, a fantastic lady, excellent practitioner and all-round committed and tireless advocate for our Veterinary Profession. I first got to work with Deb in 2009 as she secured a government grant and organised an AVA conference: The changing role of women in the veterinary profession, for the Practice Management Group, this was an excellent conference full of forward-thinking speakers taking the bull by the horns and addressing so many key changes and opportunities that feminisation of the profession will entail. Debbie has continued in that theme from this point forward! I am pleased to have Deb as a friend and colleague – Thanks Deb – for your time today… Now some questions for you!…
1. What are you working on/ towards at the moment?
I am presently in the process of establishing my own veterinary industry consultancy business. My con)sultancy will offer services along the lines of my previous work with the AVA, for instance – assistance with veterinary policy development; public affairs advice around assisting organisations interact with and influencing key stakeholders; submissions to government consultations and reviews; industry trend analyses; and independent analysis of planned veterinary industry projects.
My hope is to find some meaty, worthwhile projects that are aimed at making a positive contribution for the veterinary profession and the world that vets operate in.
I am also privileged to have recently been invited to be part of the Federal Government’s focus group working on the Animal Sector National Antimicrobial Resistance Plan for 2018. AMR is one of the most worrying threats to both public and animal health and being personally involved with developing plans to reduce these potential risks is very rewarding.
2. What drives you?
A passion for the veterinary profession and the animals that we treat and advocate on behalf of.
I love being a veterinarian. Being a vet has enriched my life on many levels. Firstly, as a clinician, I really enjoyed the varied and interesting workload, every day was different – who knew what would walk in each day and the amazing, amusing and emotional stories that would come from these interactions. Secondly, as part of the veterinary profession I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have so many veterinary colleagues that I can count on. Thirdly, being able to have a second “career” working for the AVA – “looking after the vets instead of the pets” as I used to tell people who asked what I did once I no longer worked as a clinical veterinarian.
I feel that the penultimate evidence of my passion for the veterinary profession is seen in the fact that my oldest son decided to follow in my footsteps and become a veterinarian. I hope when he is my age, he has the same passion for the profession.
3. What have been the major transitions in your path?
I graduated in 1983 and started work at Forestville Veterinary Hospital as a small animal practitioner. After 12 months I moved to Guildford Veterinary Hospital, which was the vet practice where I had taken all my animals as a child. I bought in as a partner the following year. I stayed at Guildford Veterinary Hospital for 25 years, during which time we bought two more practices; were awarded the AVPMA Practice of Excellence in Customer Service, the first year that it was offered, and I completed a Graduate Certificate in Management.
One day while sitting in the lunchroom I noticed that everyone in the room that day had not been born when I started working at Guildford Vets, so I decided it was time to try something different. I had recently been the AVA NSW President and on the AVA Policy Council and really enjoyed contributing to the profession. So, I decided to sell my practices, with the intent of semi-retiring and working part-time for the AVA. I took on the role as the Executive Officer for the Australian Veterinary Practice Management Association. I enjoyed this so much, (and I didn’t really enjoy semi-retirement so much) that I also combined working as the Executive Officer for the AVA NSW Division. During my time as the EO for the AVPMA I won a grant to run a veterinary conference specifically looking at issues for women in the profession.
After a few years, I changed roles to become the AVA National Membership and Strategy Manager, and then the AVA Strategy Manager and then AVA Policy Manager.
In the Policy Manager role, I have advocated on behalf of the profession preparing submissions for government consultations and inquiries, spoke at Senate Inquiries and at the FairWork Commission, met with federal politicians and undertook an audit of the veterinary practice legislation in Australia. I led the development of the national AVA Graduate Mentoring Scheme, undertook AVA veterinary workforce analyses; and developed the AVA Internship Guidelines.
I have also sat on the NSW Veterinary Practitioner’s Board, including Chair of Complaints; been a member of the ATO’s Small Business Stewardship Group: and the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Faculty Financial Sustainability Board.
This year I was elected to the AVA Board and as such for good governance I have recently resigned employment with the AVA.
4. What has been a major highlight of your career?
Advocating successfully for the veterinary profession to stop the government deregulating university fees and increasing the interest on HECS payments. This would have seen a massive increase in veterinary degree fees and a significant increase in HECS interest fees to existing graduates. I undertook financial modelling of the proposed changes; advocated to the Minister’s office, shadow Minister and cross benches; spoke at a Senate inquiry; wrote multiple submissions and talked to the media.
5. What advice would you provide a younger you?
Slow down and smell the roses (or rather pat the kittens). Time goes by so fast, just try to cherish every step along the way.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, things that today seem like big issues are usually gone and forgotten in a few weeks’ time.
Be yourself, don’t worry about what others are thinking of you, if you are true to yourself you will gain their respect anyway.
Thanks Deb – I am sure like me, many will be very inspired by such a great contribution to our profession! Thankyou for all that you have done and do for us! We look forward to seeing what additional amazing projects you will drive and be a part of! Also, if people want to know more about the APMVA – the next conference is later this month and you can find out more information here. Talk soon – Emma.
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