“…challenging projects are possible when you step out of your comfort zone but draw from your skills and experience.”
Laura Higham is best known within the veterinary community for bringing sustainability to the top of the agenda. Laura has been pivotal in highlighting the key roles that the veterinary profession can play in driving much-needed proactive change.
Laura gated from Edinburgh vet school in 2008, working in mixed practice in UK and New Zealand before joining the international animal welfare NGO, SPANA, managing working equid and livestock projects in disaster preparedness and response across Africa, the Middle East and central Asia. Projects included developing a community animal healthcare project with pastoralists in Darfur with the UN’s refugee agency and managing water access for herders and vet training programmes in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.
Read on to find out more about Laura’s inspiring career journey and key learnings! Or download her profile here in full.
“Vet Sustain is a voluntary organisation I established with several others back in October 2019 to champion sustainability in the veterinary professions. Bringing people together to set up Vet Sustain whilst juggling work and ‘the mother load’ has been a gargantuan task, but I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. It has shown me that these challenging projects are possible when you step out of your comfort zone but draw from your skills and experience – we all amass these during our careers and so many skills are transferable. I’ve also been pushing myself to delegate to people who are much better placed than I am to run certain strands of Vet Sustain’s work. We have a board of directors, but also a leadership team – our working group chairs are all volunteers and all women, with extraordinary skills and passion to drive change. It’s amazing how women seem to be particularly passionate and concerned about sustainability issues.”
Balancing work, motherhood, and a PhD
“I work from home and start the day with the mad rush getting my daughter to nursery and starting the working day at 9am with a redbush tea (did you want that level of detail?!). My days alternate between consultancy work and my PhD.
On consultancy days, I work with the FAI team, attending meetings online, writing reports and policy positions for food industry clients to drive sustainability in animal production within their supply chains, with a focus on improving farm animal welfare and mitigating antibiotic use. In ‘peace time’, this work involves trips down to Oxford, occasional travel overseas and farm visits, which I love.
On PhD days, I’m writing literature reviews, attending stats training courses and analysing big data sets. For some time, I’ve craved the luxury of time to really get under the skin of a single subject. I’m now exploring solutions in agriculture that will help us to reduce antimicrobial use whilst boosting animal welfare, which I find fascinating.”
Learning from experiences and looking forward
“I’ve failed at all sorts during my career. I look back on my practicing vet days with a pang of regret that I wasn’t better at or more committed to the clinical career that I’d hung my hopes on as a child. I have since made certain regrettable decisions, made work mistakes…but I try my best to look forward and I feel fortunate to have found a diversified role within the profession that suits my personality and my lifestyle really well – and one that I’m immensely passionate about. Try not to worry what others think. I think this can be quite crippling for young people, and caring much less as you grow older is so liberating!”