Who Are We

Branch Chair
Feb 2020 – present

Suzanna Hudson-Cooke

Suzanna grew up in London, and graduated as a vet from the RVC in 2014, and has worked predominantly in small animal practice since. She has particular interested in zoological and exotic medicine, as well as emergency and critical care. Suzanna has always been enthusiastic about conservation, and enjoys dedicating time outside of paid employment to charity work – recently spending several months at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Peru.
She is currently based in Kent, and works out of hours for VetsNow.

Suzanna joined the BVU in 2019 and has been an active member ever since. In her first job, she encountered bullying and poor working conditions, which cemented her passion to work towards creating a fairer and kinder profession to work in.

Outside of the BVU, Suzanna is an active political campaigner, and enjoys art and travel.

Vice Chair
March 2022 – present

Previously Branch Chair
Aug 2011 – February 2020

Shams Mir

On completion of his doctoral studies in Immunology at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Shams intention was to return back to his university teaching position in Kashmir – India, but that was not destined to happen and he arrived in the UK in 1997. 

His first experience of the UK veterinary profession was seeing practice at a large hospital in London, where he was surprised to see the small staff room with a couple of settees often occupied by the boss’ two Irish Wolfhounds – a clear indication that the welfare of the staff appeared not to be a priority for this employer. This observation prompted Shams to start looking into the issues faced by the veterinary staff for many years to come. After a short stint in Defra at Westminster, he returned to clinical practice in 2003 when he began to first-hand witness issues faced by veterinary professionals. A few years down the line, stories concerning the issues of mental health and suicides within the profession started to break into the veterinary press. Shams felt the explanations provided by the various veterinary organisation were creating a smokescreen and the real issues were being brushed under the carpet. These organisations appeared to be uninterested and indeed not designed to look after the interests of veterinary employees. He felt there was a pressing need for a new organisation with the exclusive objective of looking after the interests of veterinarians as employees and as professionals. He proposed the formation of a union for the profession in a letter to Veterinary Times published on 2 June 2008. It took sustained determination and enormous hard work over the following three years to win the argument, to organise and to finally launch the British Veterinary Union in Unite (BVU) in August 2011. That was just the start of the process and it took many more years to consolidate the position of the BVU within Unite, Britain’s largest trade union with over 1.5 million members. The work involved in this project is documented in thousands of emails, over a hundred published letters & articles and minutes of scores of meetings over the past 12 years. Although at times it felt like a very lonely journey, Shams expresses feeling deeply indebted to so many vets and nurses who supported this mission in various ways and in particular to Jan van Dijk MRCVS,  David Cuffe MRCVS, Kate Williams MRCVS and Jane Butler RVN RN for their fervent and prolonged practical support without which it would have not been possible to accomplish the task he had taken up.

Whilst working to establish the BVU, Shams also set up his own small animal practice and helped raise his three young children, all of which was only possible through the patience and unfailing support of his wife Sarah. 

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Branch Secretary
Feb 2020 – present

Kinga Kuc

Kinga qualified as a vet from Onderstepoort, Pretoria in 2003, and initially worked in mixed practice. For the past 10 years she has worked in the veterinary charity sector, and is currently based in the Midlands. She has a young family so knows the daily difficulties in balancing a career and family. She volunteers her time to the BVU because she have seen how important a union is for employees and how it improves the workplace for all.
 Kinga joined the BVU as an OPC rep in 2019 and was subsequently elected as Secretary and Treasurer at the AGM in February 2020.


Equalities Officer
March 2022 – present

Previously Organising rep
June 2020 – March 2022

David Hurley

David qualified as a vet from University College Dublin in 2019 shortly before moving to the UK. He currently works in an independent small animal practice in the North of England where his main interests are surgery and diagnostic imaging.
David first got involved with the BVU during the Coronavirus pandemic. He is currently involved in campaigns to create a mentoring scheme for new graduates entering the workplace for the first time and helping people achieve union recognition in their practices.


March 2022 – present

Previously Student rep
April 2021 – March 2022

Gabriella Hetesy

Gabby was born in Hungary and split her childhood between Budapest and New York. She gained her first degree in Biochemistry from City University New York, and is a final year veterinary student at the RCV. She is  about to become a new graduate  veterinary surgeon working in a Vets4Pets general practice. Gabby has a passion for all things smallies, but is especially interested in oncology and end-of-life pet care. She has a love for underwater worlds as well and is an avid aquascaper. Gabby joined the BVU in search of a way to support her then fellow students through the transition into the working veterinary world, and has stayed in the hopes of making a positive impact on working conditions and mental health in the veterinary industry.

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Workplace Rep
Dec 2020 – present

Greg Dixon

Greg started working in the local vets aged 13 and eventually qualified in 1995. He set about being the ‘last of the mixed vets’ for a few years, working in Oxfordshire, North Yorkshire and Sussex. Gaining the RCVS Certificate in Animal Sciences Ethics and Law in 1999 and was a keen, inaugural member of AWSELVA. During a moment of doubt as to his real nature, he undertook a PhD at Bristol, in the feather pecking behaviour of free range hens, from 2001 to 2004. Remembering he was actually a vet, through and through, and by now a father of 3, he returned to first opinion companion practice in Cardiff, sunny South Wales where he has remained ever since. After some consolidation years, he recently acquired a certificate in small animal diagnostic imaging and has made the transition to referral work at Valley Vets Hospital.

As a younger man he wanted to change the world, but in the words of the late and much lamented Jeremy Hardy, he thought he had settled for the kitchen – dining knock through. It turns out not so, and he has now joined the BVU in Unite as a representative. Stand by world.

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Student Representative & Social Media Manager
June 2021 – present

Amelia Saffadi

Amelia joined the BVU committee as a Student Representative in June 2021, and took on the role of Social Media Manager in March 2022.  She is a current Veterinary Medicine student and has around 3 years’ experience working as a veterinary receptionist. She is keen to engage more Vet students, Nursing students and clinic support staff in the work of the Union, and aims to use student-focused campaigns and social media to highlight the importance of Union membership across the whole of the veterinary sector.   

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Workplace/companion rep
March 2022 – present

Hannah van Velzen

Having spent six years in primary practice, Hannah is currently working as a resident at a large companion animal referral centre in Wiltshire. Her own experiences in practice have made her passionate about improving workplace standards, promoting fair pay and providing mental health support. Having recognized the value of a collective voice in these and many more matters, she joined the BVU in November 2021 and was voted onto the Committee soon after that. She looks forward to continuing to campaign for the things that matter to our members.

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Workplace/companion rep
November 2021-present

Laura Wilkins

Laura has been working in charity practice for the past 5 years, volunteering before that for a year also. Laura has loved & owned animals all her life & wanted to work in the veterinary profession for as long as she can remember. As such, she believes being part of a union such as the BVU is important as it gives voice & advice to those out there who are campaigning to have better working conditions & rules out there. She hopes her work as a rep will help provide a voice for those who need it, be it with campaigns, consultations or disciplinary meetings, as she’s aware just how overwhelming & lonely it can seem when you feel you are facing it alone.

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March 2022 – present

Tshidi Gardiner

Tshidi is a Wellness Coach who specialises in Mindset & Wellbeing Mentorship specifically for Veterinary Professionals. She is also a Nutrition Coach, Speaker and a passionate Stress Management & Burnout Advocate. She is trained in mental health & NLP. She qualified as a vet 18 years ago & mum of 2 boys.

She has owned a RCVS Accredited practice, where she was a clinical coach & OSCE examiner for Duchy College. She has guest lectured at Bicton, University of Pretoria & University of Bristol. She works in Small Animal practice and currently serving her first term on RCVS Council.

She is the founder of Gardiner Coaching Academy, where all practice colleagues can access free positive psychology based resources and online coaching training in various formats. She is also a passionate equalities campaigner but spends her free time with her family & walking the dog on the beautiful local beaches.

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Workplace/companion rep
March 2022 – present

Justyna Borkowska – Rozanska

Justyna graduated at  Warsaw University of Life Sciences  in 1996. She moved to UK  as an experienced vet,  in 2008. She is a small animal vet with passion for feline medicine, stress free approach to patients, owners and colleagues  and  for  mental health and  well being in work environment.

Justyna relaxes and expresses her feelings by creating, she paints with acrylics on canvas, wood and glass.
She is based in Berkshire, working  as a Lead Vet of corporate  small animal practice.

Justyna joined BVU in 2021. Profession’s poor mental health, lack of work-life balance and lack of appropriate representation to improve them has driven Justyna to become a member of BVU Committee as a Workplace/companion Representative. 

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Lead Professional Officer
Jan 2018 – present

Gavin Fergie

Gavin is a Lead Professional Officer within the health sector of Unite the union. He is attached to the British Veterinary Union in Unite to assist colleagues and members with any concerns they may have of a professional nature drawing on his experience of the culture and politics of practice, professionalism and regulation. Although  he has been a member of the Unite health team for several years he still maintains his professional registration as a nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. His nursing career has involved practice at home and overseas in a range of clinical environments both in the acute and community settings. In addition to his responsibilities to the BVU, Gavin covers the professional health agenda for Scotland and Wales in addition to a diverse range of other United Kingdom responsibilities.

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Regional Industrial Officer
2016 – present

Derek Jones

Derek has been involved with the trade union movement for over 35 years, he has a background of 28 years working within a busy acute NHS hospital in its Radiology department, initially as a Technical Officer, then in Clinical Support role within intervention and CT. He was a long-standing Branch Secretary and the Senior Representative for Unite at the NHS trust for over 20 years, looking after over 1250 members within the workplace and was the Staffside committee Chair for all unions at the hospital for a number of years also. During this time, he was a long-standing member of the Regional Industrial Sector Community for health and also its Chair for some time. He was at the same time a member of the National Sector Committee for Health for many years. Over these years Derek has been a committed activist organising and representing his sector, speaking at demonstrations giving public addresses on a wide range of issues from anti-racism to support for striking workers.

Derek initially started working for Unite 7 years ago, worked as a Membership Development Officer for the Health Sector leading on a national project to recruit and organise workers in the NHS, for the last 5 and half years he has been a Regional Industrial Officer within the Northwest Region’s Heath Sector Team, with responsibility for 7 acute NHS Trusts across the Wirral and Cheshire area, he was given responsibility to support the BVU directly by then General Secretary of Unite the Union Len McCluskey with the aim of helping to build the branch, organise the membership within the BVU and provide industrial relations and employment expertise to the Branch Officers and its members across the UK.