Kate Richards has gone from farm vet to government advisor. She reminisces about ladies’ rugby, the Meadows and feeling a bit like James Herriot.
|Degree Course||Veterinary Medicine|
|Year of Graduation||1985|
Your time at the University
I am one of the James Herriot generation. I aspired to be a vet at an early age and I remember watching the All Creatures Great and Small series and becoming even more determined to be a farm vet.
I grew up in Glasgow, and, with only two vet schools in Scotland, Edinburgh was the obvious choice as living away from home is so much part of the university experience. The veterinary student community was close knit and we worked hard as well as enjoying a range of social activities including ceilidhs, Burns suppers and Rugby Club and Final Year Balls.
Clinical Clubs were held in the Meadows Bar where I squeezed into this tiny pub to listen to talks given on various veterinary topics, thirsty for knowledge. I played tennis on the courts in the Meadows on summer’s evenings, and in the winter, it was rugby practice. I was a member of the newly formed Dick Vet ladies rugby club. We were very disciplined and trained each week and played two matches in that first year, one against the University of Edinburgh and the other against Dublin University, they were very competitive matches!
I made some life-long friends in Edinburgh, friends with similar passions and ambition, determined to live life to the full.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
My veterinary degree is the foundation of my career which has spanned many different roles working with animals and politicians, in byres and in the Boardroom, wearing wellies and heels. I had not anticipated this career path when I graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies with a burning desire to be a farm vet. It has been a fantastic experience and I have learnt an enormous amount, working with people in a number of different professions in the UK and further afield.
I spent 14 years in practice, as a farm vet, leaving to join Schering-Plough Animal Health, propelled by the desire to have a more normal working pattern and join a hockey club so that I could play every weekend. As a veterinary advisor in Schering-Plough I worked with farmers and vets across the UK.
The veterinary student community was close knit and we worked hard as well as enjoying a range of social activities.
I have spent the last 10 years in the Civil Service, joining the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs as a veterinary advisor in 2003. The Civil Service is a vast organisation with 17 departments. I have worked in five departments, in the beating heart of Whitehall, drawing on skills I honed as a practitioner; gathering and analysing evidence, making decisions, strategic financial and business planning and interpersonal skills including listening, influencing, negotiating, communicating.
My roles have included: Scientific Secretary to the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee which provided independent advice on food safety, public and animal health issues relating to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies ; Principal Private Secretary for three Secretaries of State for Scotland dealing with issues as diverse as transport, the UK constitution and the Papal visit to the UK in 2010; Cabinet Office working on the Civil Service Reform Plan; Ministry of Justice providing corporate support to 450 policy officials.
I am also a non-executive Director on the Moredun Foundation Board; Moredun’s research has led to the development of vaccines, diagnostic tests and treatment strategies for farm animals globally. My work as a Board member requires strategic thinking, financial analysis and business planning in a scientific context which is extremely fulfilling and has brought me in a full circle back to my roots while drawing on the experience of governance, business and resource management I have gained in senior government roles.
Keep your mind open to opportunities when they arise. Seek to inspire - as you go through your career, don’t pull the ladder up after you, but offer support and advice to others.