Graham Dodds remembers his time at the University's vet school as intense and exciting, and even recalls side-lines in juggling and supporting other students in their accommodation. He tell us how his career since graduation has taken him into leadership roles within the veterinary medicine sector and how being a 'generalist' makes for an interesting career path.
Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery,
Master of Science by Research
|Year of graduation||2004, 2006|
At the moment
I am the Director of Innovation and Transformation at CVS Group, one of the largest corporate veterinary groups in the UK and Europe. My work centres around shaping our business for a sustainable future that caters for changing client and employee demands. I am thrilled to help lead the implementation of innovative technologies that will positively impact the lives of our patients and colleagues.
Your time at the University
I was born and brought up in Fife, only thirty minutes from the old vet school building at Summerhall in Edinburgh. From a young age, I developed a keen interest in science and problem-solving. I also had a fascination for animals, having had many pets over the years. At some point along the way, I combined those interests and decided that veterinary medicine was where I wanted to be.
Competition for entry to the veterinary degree was (and still is) notoriously fierce, with Edinburgh being only one of six UK vet schools at the time. Having visited most of them, Edinburgh was my first choice by a mile. The history of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, combined with its outstanding reputation and location within my favourite city, made for a somewhat compelling goal.
I will never forget the day when I was offered a place, nor the day I turned up for Freshers' Week. There are many fond memories of my time at the University. The course was intensive, but there was also so much going on outside of the curriculum - it's fair to say that we all worked hard and played hard! I joined a few societies in my time as a student - the Juggling Society was a particular favourite!
I have always been drawn to leadership roles, from Head Boy at school to President of the Veterinary Students’ Council (VSC) from 2002-2003. The VSC duties were particularly enjoyable because, at the time, the plans for the new teaching unit at Easter Bush Campus were being drawn up in consultation with the students. These were exciting times and I am delighted to see the incredible facility now in operation and training the next generation of veterinary surgeons from around the world.
I funded my way through university by performing regularly as a close-up magician at various venues in and around the city (my backup career still to this day!) and by working for the University’s Accommodation Services, supporting other students in their journey through university.
I intercalated between third and fourth year to complete a Masters by Research. This was a first for the school at the time, as up until that year intercalations were BSc courses with a taught component. It was great to be part of the pioneering year and it’s fantastic to hear that since then, many more students have achieved Masters degrees in addition to their veterinary degree at the University.
Graduation was another standout moment. Reciting my veterinary oath within the breathtaking walls of McEwan Hall is a proud memory that will be etched on my mind forever.
Your experiences since leaving the University
Soon after graduation, I started work as a general practitioner in a small animal veterinary practice. General veterinary practice is unique in that you are the GP, diagnostic imager, pathologist, surgeon and medic all in one – perfect for generalists like myself that enjoy a varied career. I did this for ten years before embarking on a series of leadership roles from Associate Partner in my practice, to working with some industry-leading specialists as the Operations Director for CVS Referrals and leading the CVS Equine division.
Throughout my various leadership roles, I have always championed new technology and challenged the way we do things. This approach landed me in my current role as Director of Innovation and Transformation for CVS Group. I now drive the adoption of new technology and testing of new ideas in our group while also leading the company’s sustainability efforts. I am particularly proud of the latter. Improving animal welfare is at the core of what we do as vets, but to have the chance to make a significant positive impact on our environmental and socio-economic impact has been an extremely fulfilling journey so far.
Outside of work, I have hosted my own radio show, continued to perform close-up magic, learned to ride motorcycles, renovated several properties and somehow found time to find a beautiful wife and start a family. We welcomed our son, Enzo, in December 2020. These parts of life are the most important.
Life during Covid-19
Covid-19 has been a dark period and has forced many sectors to think outside the box and deliver alternative routes to their services. This approach is at the core of what I do in my current role as Director of Innovation and Transformation, so I have been extremely busy.
Before Covid-19, I would leave the house on Monday, fly somewhere in the world and come home on a Friday. I suspect this will be different going forward, with more time at home to spend doing other important things in life, such as spending valuable time with my family.
“Done beats perfect.” It’s amazing how much more you can accomplish if you accept that getting something off the ground beats trying to perfect it first before launch. We generally glorify perfectionism and the specialist mindset. I have found that being a generalist and just taking the first few steps in any journey, generally gets you to where you want to be. My career post-university has taught me this and has led to the varied path I have found myself on, with multiple, often completely unlinked jobs, hobbies and interests. I wouldn’t have achieved most of them by trying to perfect them before applying myself. So I suppose, to quote a famous sportswear company, sometimes you have to “just do it.”