UCLan veterinary surgeon and leader of their new vet school receives OBE
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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, with the ceremony being delayed until January 2022 due to the pandemic.
The Veterinary Clinical Senior Lecturer 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 started her celebratory day with a pre-ceremony brunch with her family, and her proud father, Cliff, joined her inside the Palace for the brief ceremony, before ending 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, before working at a vet practice in Kent for two years.
Heather then followed her passion for improving animal welfare overseas by working with gorillas and primates in Rwanda, donkeys, dogs and cats in Ethiopa, and finally working with her favourite animals, bears, in China.
In her role as Veterinary Director at Animals Asia, Heather treated bears who had been kept in cages and injured while having their bile extracted for use in traditional medicine, alongside achieving her postgraduate certificate in zoological medicine in 2009 and helping the charity set-up a sanctuary in Vietnam.
In 2011 she returned 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, where she delivered workshops and training in animal welfare, veterinary practice and ethics across many Asian countries.
The Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Defra-certified zoo inspector, 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 May 2021, Heather joined UCLan and is playing an integral part in developing Lancashire’s first Veterinary School, which 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.
Heather, who also contributes to the work of the British Veterinary Association, Federation of Vets of Europe, and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, 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.”
The newly created vet school, which is only the 11th in England and is collaboration between UCLan, Myerscough College and local veterinary partners, will welcome its first students on to bioveterinary science undergraduate and foundation entry courses in September 2022, with further courses, including the 5 year veterinary medicine degree, commencing in September 2023.