Last year, when Phil Brain was announced as one of the recipients of ASAVA’s Veterinarian of the Year award, he joked that retirement might be his next move after receiving such an accolade. Fortunately, he opted to keep working and has just been named the Federation of Asian Small Animal Veterinary Associations’ (FASAVA) Hill’s Practitioner of the Year for 2017.
The award, presented at the FASAVA Congress in Queensland in August, is conferred on a companion animal practitioner who has shown special sensitivity to the family-pet-veterinary bond, who promotes pet nutrition as a means to develop that bond, and who is held in high regard by the veterinary community for the integrity and professionalism of their practice. Brain, from Cromer on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, beat out nominees from India, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines to become this year’s winner, and is the first Australian vet to receive the award.
Brain described the award as “an amazing and unexpected honour”, and expressed gratitude to the FASAVA and Hill’s, the prize sponsor. “As a specialist, you see the importance and the vital role that nutrition plays in any patient care, and it’s a very important part of the way we treat gastrointestinal disease and all sorts of other conditions,” he said. “Not a day goes by when you’re not involved with patient nutrition in some sense, and Hill’s have always been very strong supporters of the profession.”
For the past six years, Brain has practised as a small animal specialist at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH) in North Ryde after working for many years at Pittwater Animal Hospital and Allambie Veterinary Hospital. Until 2010, he served on the ASAVA executive committee for a record 18 years, including a term as President of the Association and two terms as Honorary Secretary. Brain also served ASAVA as Scientific Convenor for the Association’s annual conferences from 2001 to 2011.
Brain also served on the editorial advisory board of The Veterinarian for several years.
Receiving his honour at the 2017 FASAVA Congress was an added bonus for Brain, particularly as he, along with Graham Swinney, spent the past five years serving as a Scientific Convenor of the Congress, bringing together the multitude of presenters for the event. This was the first time the Congress had been held in Australia, and with eight separate streams and more than 70 speakers, coordinating the scientific program was no mean feat – especially since the World Veterinary Dental Congress, the Unusual Pet and Avian Veterinarians’ Exotics Congress, and the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia Veterinary Nursing Congress were run alongside the event this year.
The Congress “exceeded our expectations” Brain said. Organisers were pleased to welcome more than 1,900 delegates to the Gold Coast event, including approximately 500 international guests.
“We were hoping to get about 1,300-1,500 delegates,” Brain said, “and when we got closer to 2,000 we were very happy.”
Brain was gratified to have attracted more than 20 international speakers to the Congress, many of whom had spoken at ASAVA Conferences in the past.
“Probably the most rewarding thing of all about organising the conference was that the relationships we had created at past events were so strong that pretty much every single international speaker that we asked to save the date four years ahead of time emailed us back within a couple of weeks to say they’d be delighted to attend,” he said. “It was a real tribute to the way the ASAVA executive had treated those speakers previously.”
Receiving the 2017 FASAVA Hill’s Practitioner of the Year award “was very unexpected,” Brain said, “but it was a lovely way to celebrate the culmination of the FASAVA Congress. I am really very proud of what all the organisers achieved in bringing that conference to Australia.”