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Published: 22 February 2019

An interview with Chris Proudman, Head of the School of Veterinary Medicine

As the first intake of Vet School students near graduation, and in the run-up to the School’s forthcoming visit from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS); student Alexia Yiannouli interviews Professor Christopher Proudman about his ambitions for Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Alexia: "Surrey Vet School is finally arriving at the end of the accreditation journey. How does that feel?”

Chris: “I’m feeling really excited and positive. We’ve come a long way; what for the students has been five years has been even longer for us given that planning started a few years before our first cohort arrived.

We’re in a really strong position for accreditation. One thing that gives us this confidence is that the former fourth years have made a great transition into their final year. 

Students have been receiving positive feedback from rotation partners, who think they are confident and competent clinically, so now it’s a case of keeping that going until the end of the year. I sometimes have a great problem when I write the date trying to work out what year it is – I spend so long trying to think three years ahead, it’s hard to remember that it’s 2019. It’s important sometimes to live in the here and now.”           

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Professor Chris Proudman

Alexia: “Why did you join the University of Surrey?”

Chris: “Firstly, I felt that veterinary education could be better. The model being used wasn’t sustainable, it was outdated, and it needed innovation and new ideas. Secondly, I was drawn to the excitement and energy at this university. They had the perfect combination of big, bold plans and the ideas and systems to bring that to fruition."

Alexia: “Despite the success of the vet school, there must have been some difficult moments along the way. What have been your most significant challenges seeing the project through to completion? And how did you over-come those challenges?”

Chris: “Ultimately staffing: finding the right mix of staff to come and work with us. A low point for me was when Gail Anderson resigned as Director of Clinical Education in 2015 to return to Australia. She was instrumental in writing our curriculum and I think I’m right in saying she was hugely popular with staff and students. It was hard to find a replacement until Peter Cockroft joined us nearly eighteen months later who has been brilliant in the role. It’s worth mentioning that Caroline Argo temporarily stepping in to the role for that time, which was above and beyond the call of duty.” 

"I’ve worked with great people and the culture in the school is special."

Professor Chris Proudman

Alexia: “What is it that is special about Surrey?”

Chris: “I’ve worked with great people and the culture in the school is special; we are supported by the central university and they share our ambitions. We allow for innovation, ideas and creativity and the central university encourages this, but also helps to steer us in the right direction from time to time.”

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Alexia Yiannouli

Alexia: “What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the last five years?”

Chris: “Staff and students often have the answers to the big questions. Coming into this role, I felt a weight of expectation on me, but that really isn’t the case. A democratic approach in a body of like-minded people can be really effective and it keeps people engaged.”

Alexia: Fast forward to ten years’ time, what would you envision for the vet school?”

Chris: “My vision for the vet school is that we are top of the league tables – this is one of our core objectives: great education, great student outcomes, and great research in a sustainable way. We need to keep innovating and doing things differently to achieve that, but in ten years I would certainly see us in the top three of the league table if not competing for top spot.”

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