Equine infectious disease expert selected to lead veterinary clinical sciences at the University of Melbourne

The next Head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the Melbourne Veterinary School will be equine infectious disease expert Professor Josh Slater.

The next Head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the Melbourne Veterinary School will be equine infectious disease expert Professor Josh Slater.

Professor Slater will commence in the role on 1 December 2018. He is currently Professor of Equine Clinical Studies and Director of the Equine Referral Hospital at the Royal Veterinary College, London, one of the world’s leading veterinary schools.

Professor Slater said he was honoured to be selected for the role.

“The University of Melbourne is one of world’s leading universities with an outstanding veterinary school and a rich tradition of scholarly achievement,” he said.

Professor Josh Slater.

“Delivering outstanding clinical training in both primary care and referral environments, in which students are mentored by inspiring educators and exposed to innovation and the highest clinical standards, is something I am passionate about and have championed at the Royal Veterinary College. I am looking forward to working with the team at the Melbourne Veterinary School to deliver unparalleled student-centred, transdisciplinary, evidence-based clinical education.”

Professor Slater completed his Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1985. He worked for four years in private equine practice before undertaking a residency in equine medicine at the University of Cambridge, completing a PhD in equine infectious diseases in 1994.

He served as lecturer and senior lecturer at Cambridge, and held a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellowship, before joining the Royal Veterinary College in 2005.

Professor Slater has held biosecurity roles for a number of major equine sporting events, including the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 and 2018 World Equestrian Games. He is also a past president of the British Equine Veterinary Association, the European College of Equine Internal Medicine and the Federation of European Equine Veterinary Associations, and is currently secretary to the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation and Chairman of the Horse Trust.

Professor Slater’s research interests include infectious respiratory diseases of horses, especially herpesviruses, influenza and Streptococcus equi, the cause of strangles, a highly infectious disease and important biosecurity concern in the equine industry.

Professor Slater said that Melbourne Veterinary School’s strong track record in disease surveillance, infectious disease research and biosecurity provides a strong link into his own research interests that creates major opportunities.

“Transboundary and zoonotic infectious diseases have never been more important,” he said.

“Equine infectious diseases form a significant component of the One Health agenda, something that the team at Melbourne Veterinary School are already focussing on. I am excited by the possibilities offered by our mutual research interests and can see great potential for future research.”

One Health recognises the interdependence of the health of humans, animals and the environment, and that scientists, health professionals, policymakers and others must approach the health of any of these as part of the bigger picture of global health.

Professor Anna Meredith, Head of the Melbourne Veterinary School, said Professor Slater was a superb fit for the role.

“Josh’s career as a leader in infectious disease research and international biosecurity aligns closely with the Melbourne Veterinary School’s role in maintaining Australia’s biosecurity in equine events, through animal disease surveillance and our broader One Health approach,” she said.

“His experience as Director of the Equine Referral Hospital at the Royal Veterinary College will also be very beneficial to our own U-Vet animal hospital in Werribee, which is one of Australia’s leading veterinary referral hospitals.

“Our veterinary teaching, clinical care, research and engagement with government and industry will all benefit greatly from Professor Slater’s expertise.”

Professor Slater said he is “hugely optimistic” about future developments in veterinary medicine and that the Melbourne Veterinary School is ideally placed to exploit the opportunities created by these changes.

“We are in a time of great change for the veterinary profession, not just in Australia, but around the world,” he said.

“Specialisation, differentiation and consolidation are fundamentally changing veterinary practice globally at a time when the profession is diversifying to meet changing societal needs. The innovative programme at Melbourne, combined with its talented academic team, state-of-the-art facilities and network of external partnerships, means that the School will continue to be a leader and innovator in veterinary education, setting the pace and producing exceptional graduates equipped to adapt to the changing needs of the societies we serve.”

Story by Stuart Winthrope. Banner image: the University of Melbourne, Parkville campus.