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About four years ago I won a travel scholarship from the British Small Animal Veterinary Association for my proposal to travel to China for two weeks, and study the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine used in animals there.

I arranged to go to Zhejiang University, one of the biggest and best in China, and one of the many training veterinary students – though the way vets are trained in China is very different, at the moment, to the West. I believe this will soon start to begin to change now to the western way. Whilst there I studied in the University Animal Hospital, and soon some of the veterinary students attending there, were regularly talking to me – as they are always very keen to practice their English and learn veterinary matters. One day, in talking about foreign bodies in dogs, the student mentioned that they had opened the stomach of a dog that they have – an experimental dog, to practice, and that they keep cats and dogs to practice on.

I subsequently learnt that this is common practice there, to practice invasive techiniques at some of the Vet Schools, and some of the Veterinary Animal Hospitals. Often the same animals are used repeatedly.

I knew that in China “who you know” and contacts are very important. I had become friends with some of the animal doctors and the head of the department, and now also the dean of the department had met me and attended part of my classes, so I believed I had a good chance of trying to do something about this, and show them the much better western way of using models not animals, to practice clinical skills. Hence when I came back to the UK I managed to raise the funds to travel back out there with some very basic (and cheap) models I had made, plus a couple of small purchased models. (There are some very good ones from America, but they are very expensive and some very large – I have to carry all my equipment, plus personal things in my luggage on the plane.)

I have managed to raise the funds each year to travel back to Zhejiang University, and my workshops now, in 2018, are in their fourth year.

I hope they impress upon the Vet schools and Vet hospitals how much better the Western way is – using models not animals to train vet students.

There is always the possibility I feel, through who I know at Zhejiang University, to possibly hold workshops at other Universities. Also, good ideas always quickly catch on at other similar centres.