Prior to joining CityU in 2019, Professor Barrs was a senior academic and leader at the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science in Australia with multiple international advisory roles. She is a distinguished specialist of feline medicine and is internationally renowned for her veterinary infectious diseases research. An advocate for companion animal health, she provides strong leadership for JCC’s One Health concept as well as interdisciplinary research and policy development, with the COVID-19 outbreak clearly demonstrating their vital importance.
By implementing these approaches, the College has made remarkable advances in the past decade and a half, starting from the strong collaborative partnership put in place from 2009 with Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine to plan and offer a world-class veterinary programme to train high-calibre professionals.
For the inaugural class of 11 BVM students, who began their studies in 2017, the Cornell University collaboration has enabled them to gain not only veterinary knowledge but advanced clinical experience by mixing with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Throughout their rigorous six-year training programme, combining problem-based learning, with extensive workplace training, the BVM students have fully equipped themselves with the clinical competencies needed to practise veterinary medicine.
Putting research into practice
In Hong Kong, the College actively engages with industry and the community to transfer new knowledge to society and to translate discoveries and innovations into products, practices, and policies for the benefit of animal, human and environmental health.
One example is a planned community outreach project to provide veterinary healthcare for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and offer a holistic learning experience for students. In addition, Professor Barrs said that “More high impact research to address key challenges faced by society will be one of our strong focus areas. This will be achieved by fostering more interdisciplinary and collaborative research within and external to the College, enhancing research grant performance, strengthening the PhD curriculum, and nurturing a culture of innovation, translation and entrepreneurship.”
Go BVM pioneers!
“I also have no doubt that our first cohort of veterinary students will make enormous contributions to advancing animal health and welfare both locally and globally, and some will become international leaders in the field,” Professor Barrs said.
Given a global shortage of veterinarians, including in Hong Kong, completing the programme opens the door to a diversity of career choices. “To our BVM pioneers, I say congratulations on your momentous achievement! Six years is a long time to study, but I know that you have developed skills that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Don’t be strangers and remember your many supporters here at CityU,” she added.
CityU Farm milestone
With CityU Farm in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po, going into full operation from November 2022, the University achieved another milestone in its promotion of veterinary medicine. The farm’s state-of-the-art technologies and facilities enable it to be sustainably operated, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in animal husbandry and farm management in an environmentally friendly way.
“Future BVM students will be able to, almost literally, grasp the training opportunities it offers ‘by the horns’,” Professor Barrs said.
As part of the College’s vision, it aspires to become one of the top 20 veterinary schools within 20 years of achieving international accreditation. “It’s an ambitious goal. Yet given our strategic partnership with Cornell University and our strong foundation, it is highly achievable,” Professor Barrs said.
The College will also continue its outreach to the Greater Bay Area and expand teaching and research activities to mainland China as part of its mission to improve animal health and welfare in the region. “With the first cohort of BVM students completing their degree, the College’s establishment phase is now complete and a new phase of maturation and growth is underway,” Professor Barrs explained.
Meanwhile, the experience gained in preparing for international accreditation for the BVM programme has put the College in a good position to obtain accreditation from the Institute of Biomedical Science (UK) and Medical Lab Technologists Board (HK) for the JCC BSc Biomedical Sciences programme.
“I am confident that with the close collaboration between our academic departments, including biomedical sciences and neurosciences, the College will see even greater success and breakthroughs in the near future,” Professor Barrs said.