VETERINARY graduates from overseas who wish to practise in the UK, and who are not eligible for registration by the RCVS by virtue of a recognised EU or ‘Commonwealth and foreign’ qualification, or a qualification from an accredited college in the USA or Canada, are normally required to sit and pass the RCVS ‘statutory membership examination’. Recent years have seen a steady increase in the number of overseas vets who hope to demonstrate that, by passing the exam, they have the ‘requisite knowledge and skill to be fit to practise veterinary surgery’ in the UK. Among them were Denis and Nikoleta Novak, from Serbia, whose motivation for sitting the exams was rather different from most. Here they tell their story.


THERE are many reasons why vets from overseas decide to sit the MRCVS examination. Most of them want to move to the UK for family, economic or personal reasons. Our main goal for sitting the exam was professional development. Sounds strange? Unusual? Let us start our story from the beginning.

We are a married couple of veterinary surgeons from Belgrade, Serbia. Our first contact with the veterinary profession in the UK was as final-year students, through the International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA) exchange programme. We saw practice in Plymouth at Bower, Hunt and Young’s Veterinary Hospital and the Elm Cottage Veterinary Centre.

Seeing practice in the UK was a fascinating experience for us, and completely different from the practice we had seen in our country. The whole system of education of veterinary surgeons in the UK was new to us and, from our point of view, appeared much better than the training we had received.

That first visit to veterinary practices in the UK gave us an insight into how much more we had to learn if we were to do our jobs to the best of our ability. We went back home and completed our degrees, and started working in the family practice in Belgrade.

After we qualified, we met Mr Ray Butcher, a past-president of the BSAVA and FECAVA, during a FECAVA course in Macedonia, at which he was one of the speakers. Having chatted to him about our wonderful experience of seeing practice in England, he and his wife, Moira, kindly invited us to stay with them and see practice at the Wylie Veterinary Centre in Upminster, where Mr Butcher is a senior partner. The practice is huge, well equipped and has such a friendly atmosphere; while there, we became even more inspired to extend our professional knowledge and skills.
During that trip, we heard about a fellow Belgrade veterinary graduate who was working in the UK, Mr Dragan Tomovic. We decided to give him a call and he and his wife, Laura, kindly invited us to visit them in Cambridge, where they run the nearby Ashcroft Veterinary Surgery on the outskirts of Cambridge with their partner, Simon Shore. We received a warm welcome, both in the surgery and in their home.
We stayed with them for a week, and during that time we spoke a lot about ways for us to expand our professional knowledge. Dragan had sat and passed the RCVS membership examination a few years previously, and he thought that studying for the examination would be the best way for us to achieve our goal.

We decided to follow Dragan’s advice, but, even with his experience of the examina-tion, his willingness to help us and his revision notes, it was very difficult to prepare for the exam while living and working in Belgrade. Fortunately for us, Ashcroft Veterinary Surgery has strong links with Cambridge veterinary school; Laura and Simon are both Cambridge graduates and their surgery is included in the extramural studies progra-mme for the Cambridge students. Laura asked the vet school, on our behalf, if they would accept us as visiting students for a year – and we couldn’t believe our luck when it agreed.
Attending lectures in a veterinary school is the best possible way to prepare for the MRCVS exam; it is also the best way to hear about and see the latest developments in veterinary science and be taught by some of the UK’s leading experts. Laura and Dragan offered us accommodation in their house during that time, and it was their generosity that made it realistic and possible for us to be ‘students’ again.

Beginning studies
The following October, in 2000, we were back in Cambridge, starting our visiting student programme. We attended lectures with both fourthand fifth-year students. We were also allowed to use the library, video library and computers, and even

Denis and Nikoleta Novak are a husband and wife team of small animal veterinary surgeons who work in a family-owned practice in Belgrade, Serbia. They attained membership of the RCVS by examination in 2002.

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