“The idea is not to live forever, but to create something that will.” – Andy Warhol
By Silvia Janska
Many of you may know of WikiVet, but do not know the story behind it. Nick Short, whom we tragically lost in 2021, was the driving force behind WikiVet, the brilliant resource that we still use to this day. In fact we were reminded of this legacy very recently as it was a resource readily used to supplement veterinary undergraduate teaching during the COVID-19 lockdown. While I worked with Nick and the WikiVet Project for almost 8 years when I was a veterinary student, Dr Gemma Gaitskell-Phillips and Dr. Bev Groves were more closely involved and worked alongside Nick and others in creating the WikiVet resource as we know it today. I had the chance to interview Gemma to gain some first-hand insight into how it all started and to find out more about her experiences working on the WikiVet Project.
Whose idea was it to create WikiVet and how did it all start?
I believe that WikiVet initially started as a pathology resource which was a joint effort and inspired by the CLIVE program. It was officially established in 2007 as primarily an anatomy and physiology resource and has grown to provide online access to a comprehensive veterinary undergraduate curriculum. The consortium was initially formed by three UK veterinary schools, London’s Royal Veterinary College the University of Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, and was subsequently joined by the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. WikiVet was initially funded by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Subsequent commercial sponsors included Mars Petcare, RCVS Trust, Pfizer Global Alliances, Ceva, and the Donkey Sanctuary. As you know Nick Short was a driving force behind WikiVet and contributed greatly to its success both in the early days and when it was more established.
How did you first hear of WikiVet and how did you get involved?
I first heard of WikiVet as Nick Short (one of the founders) was my tutor and he knew that I grew up in Spain and spoke Spanish, so initially got me on board towards the end of my studies to help with some of the joint projects that were ongoing with the University of Murcia in Spain. When I finished my degree, I continued combining WikiVet work whilst I pursued other interests including managing the logistics and coordination of a professional showjumping stables in Madrid and spending some time working in marketing, completing a Master’s degree in Equine Reproduction, working as a translator and now pursuing a PhD. It was a great opportunity as it allowed me to combine other jobs whilst also continuing to stay involved in the veterinary world. I realised fairly early on that I didn’t want to solely do clinical work but decided to finish my veterinary degree as I actually enjoyed both theoretical and practical sides of it and even in second year it would have taken the same amount of time to complete another degree if I had dropped out.
What were some of your early challenges working as vets in non-clinical roles and how could someone following a similar path (working on non-clinical projects) overcome them?
I think the main challenge was questioning about not wanting to do clinical work. I’m not sure there is any easy way to overcome this, just make sure you are doing what you want/like rather than what others think you should be doing. I do however think it is becoming easier and people’s perceptions towards other career paths after studying a veterinary degree are changing.
What were some big achievements for WikiVet and for you personally during this project?
There were lots of big achievements for WikiVet, but I think one of the most significant and also one of the ones closest to Nick’s heart were the users it had in developing countries, who were often studying at universities where resources were less easily available and the information it provided them with as well as the opportunity to be up to date with current developments/information in the field. At a personal level I think my biggest achievement was probably the coordination of the Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum (OVAM) project. It was a big undertaking with partners all over the UK and Europe, as well as the rest of the world and coordinating all the resources which were contributed, as well as the student ambassadors really made me feel like we had achieved something significant, especially when it all came together at the launch.
In 2020, The Webinar Vet came to the rescue of WikiVet as there were limited resources to support the ongoing needs to maintain and develop the platform. Luckily for its users, The Webinar Vet has pledged that it will be kept as a free educational platform forever. Since WikiVet is so close to my heart, I am excited that for WikiVet’s 15th birthday this year, The Webinar Vet is holding a free 1-day educational CPD event for students – The WikiVet Ed Fest – which will take place on Saturday the 24th of September. The event will be comprised of clinical and non-clinical lectures aimed at veterinary students and new graduates. I am delighted to be chairing some of the sessions, so see you there!