A WELSH veterinary science lecturer has received a prestigious UK award for her work with a pioneering project on antibiotic use in livestock.

Dr Gwen Rees BVSc (Hons) PhD MRCVS has received the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Impact Award for her involvement in the Arwain Vet Cymru project to improve antibiotic prescribing in cattle and sheep.

Dr Rees leads on the Arwain Vet Cymru project, which trains and supports a national network of Veterinary Prescribing Champions (VPCs) across Wales.

A lecturer in Veterinary Science at Aberystwyth University, her research interests include dairy cattle, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and antimicrobial stewardship, ethnography and evidence-based veterinary medicine. 

Originating from a working group set up by independent veterinary practice consortium for South Wales, Iechyd Da, Arwain Vet Cymru has become a blueprint for schemes across the UK and globally.

The project has been successfully rolled out by Iechyd Da, Bristol Vet School, North Wales veterinary practice consortium Milfeddygion Gogledd Cymru(MGC), Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers (WLBP), and Aberystwyth University.

Arwain Vet Cymru is supported by the Welsh Government and the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer, led by Professor Christianne Glossop, and funded by the Rural Development Programme (2014 – 2020).   

Dr Rees said, “I am absolutely delighted that the pioneering work of Arwain Vet Cymru has been recognised by the RCVS in this way. It’s been a challenging year for everyone, and I’m so proud to have been able to work with a great team of collaborators from Iechyd Da, WLBP and University of Bristol. 

“Above all, I’m grateful to the hard work and commitment of our network of excellent Welsh Veterinary Prescribing Champions for making the project such a success.”

The Impact Award is bestowed upon a vet running a project that has a significant impact on the profession at large, animal health or welfare, or public health, and Dr Rees was nominated for her award by Robert Smith of Iechyd Da. 

He said, “Arwain Vet Cymru is a Wales-wide project to promote the responsible use of antibiotics in the cattle and sheep livestock sectors. Gwen has trained a network of Veterinary Prescribing Champions (VPCs) across Wales who promote responsible medicine use and introduce antimicrobial stewardship policies into their practices. 

“Their work is already translating into real, practical, on-farm change. Inspired by the success of this Welsh scheme, a similar UK-wide initiative called Farm Vet Champions which is being launched.”

Originally from Llanelli, Dr Rees qualified as a vet from the University of Liverpool in 2009, and she has worked in farm and equine practice in West Wales and New Zealand. 

In 2014, she took up a role at Bristol Vet School as a teaching fellow in Farm Animal Population Medicine. She undertook a PhD researching prescription veterinary medicine use by UK dairy farmers. 

Dr Rees was recently appointed lecturer in Veterinary Science at Aberystwyth University and is part of the team of staff establishing Wales’ first Veterinary School, which will welcome its first students this autumn.

Congratulating Dr Rees, the Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure said, “Many congratulations to Dr Rees on her success and on this well-deserved recognition of her work. 

“Agriculture is such an important part in the Welsh economy and it is incumbent on us as universities to provide the people and the skills that will contribute to ensuring they thrive for years to come. The new School of Veterinary Science adds a vitally important new piece to the jigsaw, one that will build resilience in the rural economy through education and research at a time of great potential change and challenges. I’m very grateful to Dr Rees and everyone else who has contributed to realising the dream of a school of veterinary science in Wales.”

An Associate Editor and Editorial Board member for the BMJ’s Veterinary Record Case Reports, Dr Rees also sits on the British Veterinary Association’s Welsh Branch Council, Welsh Government’s AMR in Animals and the Environment Delivery Group, and is an author on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Evidence Based Veterinary Medicine (EBVM) Learning projects.