Gairn Ross, PDSA Director of Veterinary Services with Director General
Marilyn Rydström and canine friend
After 26 years - first as a young vet and then as top vet - Gairn Ross, PDSA's Director of Veterinary Services is retiring this month and returning to his native Scotland. But as he prepares to wave goodbye to the charity that has dominated his work and home life for over a quarter of a century, what will be his lasting memories of PDSA?
PDSA then and now... When I arrived as a young vet at the PDSA Animal Treatment Centre (ATC) in Dundee in 1977 the premises could best be described as quaint. After a number of years lugging enormous dogs up and down precarious stairs I vowed to ensure that some day Dundee would have a state of the art animal hospital. That ambition was eventually achieved but sadly, not until after I had forsaken clinical work for the dubious delights of senior management.
It's hard to imagine now but when I joined PDSA it was still trying to shake off the image of being a veterinary charity that provided little more than 'first aid' for pets! It makes me feel very proud that through the dedication and commitment of the entire veterinary team, past and present, the PDSA is now recognised as Britain's leading veterinary charity and has grown to become the largest private employer of Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Nurses in the UK and indeed the largest veterinary practice in Europe. It is staggering to think that we now provide 1.3million treatments each year
Greatest concern... is the cost of providing the veterinary service. Veterinary medicine, like human medicine has gone through a technical revolution and we can do so much more for our patients today. However, the high-tech equipment we require today demands greater labour resources and higher technical ability. There was a time when I would only need a stethoscope to examine a dog's chest. Now we need x-ray and ultrasound equipment and ECG machines to aid a more accurate diagnosis. We aim to provide the best care we can afford and I hope this continues to be our goal for the future.
Greatest asset... has to be our staff. Our Veterinary Surgeons, Veterinary Nurses, Nursing Auxiliaries, Animal Care Auxiliaries, Receptionists, Cleaners and Volunteers all play vital roles in delivering our service. I would like to pay particular tribute to our nurses. In 1985 PDSA adopted the RCVS Veterinary Nurse training programme and we are recognised today as a leading trainer of veterinary nurses. I believe that PDSA's veterinary nurses are world class. Our vets I know share my view and of course PDSA nurses are greatly sought after by private practice.
The future looks bright for PDSA and the pets and owners that rely on us for veterinary treatment and have done for the past 85 years since its founding in 1917. Of course it would be wonderful if that 'need' for help disappeared tomorrow but that is never going to happen. There will always be people and pets that need PDSA's charitable service and that's why we are here today and will be here tomorrow. Of course I am well aware that we can only achieve that if we continue to receive the generous support of the public. Without the help of those who remember PDSA in their will, the charity would not have survived to celebrate 85 years of caring in 2002.
Time to move on... having seen PDSA progress to the position that it commands today I feel that I can happily step away into the Scottish heather and enjoy a retirement spent with my wife and family especially my young Granddaughter, Lucy. When I first started out as a young idealistic vet I wanted to find a job that was also a 'cause' that I could support and invest in - that's what I found with PDSA. The work we do is vital to a lot of people and their pets and serving the PDSA allows us to put something back into the community. If my service has contributed in some small way then that's good enough for me.