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UCLan veterinary surgeon receives OBE

An integral member of the University of Central Lancashire’s new School of Veterinary Medicine has received an OBE at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

An integral member of the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) new School of Veterinary Medicine has received an OBE at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Dr Heather Bacon accepted her insignia from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in Edinburgh after she was recognised in the Queen’s 2020 New Year Honours list for her services to veterinary education, animal welfare and charity work in the UK and abroad.

The Veterinary Clinical Senior Lecturer, whose ceremony was delayed until January 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said: “It was a very proud day for me and it was so surreal. It was like a very special graduation with all the formal pomp and ceremony you’d expect and there were rules I had to follow with military precision timing.

“I only found out shortly before the ceremony that I had to do a small curtsey on arriving in front of Princess Anne and then one as I was leaving so if I’d have known beforehand I would have practised! I was nervous but I winged it with my little dip and thankfully I was fine.

“Princess Anne is very knowledgeable about the world of animals, veterinary care and training so we spoke for around two to three minutes. I talked about my work with animal charities overseas and I explained I was now part of the team setting up the first Veterinary School in Lancashire at UCLan’s Preston Campus and she was very interested to know a new vet school is opening.”

Heather kicked-off her very special day with a pre-ceremony brunch with her family. Her very proud father, Cliff, joined her inside the Palace for the brief ceremony and they capped off the day with a family dinner and drinks.

The veterinary surgeon graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2003 with an intercalated honours degree in conservation medicine and from the University of Bristol in 2005 with her veterinary degree. She then moved to Kent to work in a vet practice and two years later moved overseas. Heather worked with gorillas and primates in Rwanda and spent time in Ethiopia working with donkeys, dogs and cats.

Her passion for improving animal welfare overseas then took her to China where she worked with her favourite animal, bears. In her role as Veterinary Director at Animals Asia, she treated bears who had been kept in cages and injured while having their bile extracted for use in traditional medicine. While in China, she achieved her postgraduate certificate in zoological medicine in 2009 and she helped the charity set-up a sanctuary in Vietnam.

In 2011 she returned home to the UK with her two rescue dogs, Matilda and Mothi, and was appointed as the founding international education and outreach manager at the University of Edinburgh’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education.

During her time there, Heather also organised and delivered workshops and training in animal welfare, veterinary practice and ethics across many Asian countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, who also has a rescue cat Talitha, commented: “I feel very lucky to be recognised with this OBE and feel slightly like I’ve got imposter syndrome because I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many incredible people throughout my career. The people I’ve met and collaborated with at home and across the world are doing so many wonderful things to help improve animal care and welfare so I feel this award acknowledges and recognises their hard work too.”

In addition, she contributes to the work of the British Veterinary Association, Federation of Vets of Europe, and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, and is also a Defra-certified zoo inspector.

In May 2021, the award-winning vet joined UCLan and is playing an integral part in developing Lancashire’s first Veterinary School. The newly created School, which is only the 11th Vet School in England, will welcome its first students on to bioveterinary science undergraduate and foundation entry courses in September 2022. Further courses, including the prestigious veterinary medicine and surgery five-year degree, will commence in September 2023.

Based at UCLan’s Preston Campus, the new Veterinary School will deliver foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate courses in areas such as veterinary medicine, bioveterinary science, veterinary clinical practice, veterinary physiotherapy and rehabilitation, and clinical animal behaviour and training.

The University is collaborating with Myerscough College and local veterinary partners to deliver certain programmes of study.

She added: “I’ve always liked being there from the start and being part of the team which develops the curriculum or facilities or research projects. It’s stressful setting up something so big but it’s also exciting. With the support of colleagues across the University, I’m confident it will be a huge success.”

A talk about the development of the School will take place on Wednesday, 26 January, at 6.00pm at Myerscough’s Bowland Suite. To reserve your place, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/veterinary-education-for-the-next-generation-tickets-241110386657

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