Who Are We
Feb 2020 – present
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.
Feb 2020 – present
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.
March 2022 – present
Previously Student Representative
April 2021 – March 2022
Gabriella originally joined the BVU in 2020 in search of a way to support her fellow students through the transition into the working veterinary field and has stayed in the hopes of making a positive impact on the working conditions and mental health in the veterinary industry. She took up the role of Treasurer upon graduating in 2022.
After having spent a year in first opinion practice in a Vets4Pets practice, Gabby is now a clinical fellow in oncology at the Royal Veterinary College. She has a passion for oncology and hopes to one day become board certified. Outside of veterinary work, she enjoys kayaking, board games, and teaching her dog increasingly ridiculous tricks.
March 2022 – present
Previously Branch Chair
Aug 2011 – February 2020
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.
Student Representative & Social Media Manager
June 2021 – present
Amelia joined the BVU committee as a Student Representative in June 2021, completed Workplace Rep Training in February 2022, and took on the role of Social Media Manager in March 2022. She is a 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 clinical 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.
Organising Representative & Website Manager
Laura has been working in charity practice as a VCA since 2017, 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 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.
In her personal life she enjoys walks with her Border Collie, a handrear Shorkie, an elderly Yorkshire Terrier when he decides to get out of his bed & of course her partner. That or making sure her cat is the happiest he can be because he is the true leader in her household, as all cat owners will be able to relate.
Dec 2020 – present
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.
June 2023 – Present
June 2023 – present
Lauren started life in the veterinary world as a VCA at a local mixed practice in Hertfordshire in 2004, however in 2006 decided to retrain in Health and Social Care and spent 8 years working alongside Children and adults with disabilities both within family homes and the wider community.
In 2012 Lauren chose to throw off the shackles of bureaucracy that came with the Social Care sector and took off travelling around Southeast Asia and Australia in a 1977 Toyota Hiace pop top called ‘Mrs Mustard’. Despite the joy of living life on the road, Lauren returned to the UK (mainly because she missed her dog), bought some proper clothes and got a ‘real’ job as a receptionist at a mixed animal practice in South Wales in 2014.
Lauren stayed here and retrained (again) as an RVN in 2017 then coaxed a small, bald human into the world in 2018. Feeling that life just wasn’t tiring enough Lauren then went on to do an undergraduate degree in Veterinary Leadership and Management in 2021, and when realising that making progressive and positive changes for a struggling workforce wasn’t going to happen from the top down, she moved to a small animal hospital in Cardiff.
Here she works as a Surgical RVN as well as a Clinical Coach for FdSc Veterinary Nursing Students and is where she met Greg Dixon (see above), joined the BVU and pledged to use her voice to make the difference from the bottom up instead!
Outside of work Lauren spends her time engaging in numerous and varied hobbies, from fine art commission portraits, converting vans into campers and travelling as much of the UK coastline with her partner and son in their converted bus, all the while dreaming of the simple life living on a homestead running smallholding courses!
June 2020 – Present
Previously Equalities Officer
March 2022 – September 2023
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
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.
September 2023 – Present
Noah is from the North West of England & is currently a Veterinary Medicine Student at Harper & Keele. He joined the BVU as he has a great understanding of the importance of Union memberships within a workplace and is eager to first learn and then show other Vet and Vet Nursing Students the importance of union membership in the veterinary sector and to encourage more people to be a BVU member and to participate in campaigns.
September 2023 – Present
Benjamin Cross (he/him)
September 2022 – present
Justyna Borkowska – Rozanska
Justyna graduated at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in 1996. She moved to the UK as an already experienced vet in 2008. She is a small animal vet with a passion for feline medicine, a stress free approach to patients, owners and colleagues and for a good mental health and wellbeing within the 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 a corporate small animal practice.
Justyna joined the BVU in 2021. The profession’s poor mental health, a lack of work-life balance and a lack of appropriate representation to improve conditions has driven Justyna to become a member of the BVU Committee as Disabilities Representative.
April 2023 – present
Anna joined the BVU Committee in 2023, having become increasingly passionate about workplace issues during her career. Anna graduated from Edinburgh in 2006 and spent 8 years working as a vet in mixed practice in Cornwall. As much as she loved the gig rowing, kite surfing, climbing, hiking, surfing, beaches, cycling, and clinical work on the farms, after completing her Certificate in Small Animal Medicine, she returned to her home town of Shrewsbury to be closer to family and explore other career options centred around small animal only work.
In addition, after completing a Diploma with the Photography Institute, she enjoyed a short spell running her own sport and animal photography business while working as a locum.
Since 2018 she has enjoyed working part time in Vets4pets, raising her two boys and caring for her elderly whippet. Very passionate about wider peace and justice issues in politics, from 2017 until present, she has also been a member of her local Constituency Labour Party Executive Committee, as IT Officer, Treasurer, and Vice Chair. Anna has previously been published in the Vet Times, the Shropshire Star, and Prospect magazine, on issues related to mental health and animal welfare and Brexit, respectfully.
Having followed the fantastic achievements of unions in other workplaces, and spent nearly two decades hearing from friends about the most appalling treatment at work (contrasted with some great experiences), particularly around family life, the menopause, and maternity issues, Anna is excited that the BVU will be a fantastic vehicle to initiate change. Collectively bringing the profession together to standardise fair treatment for our friends and colleagues is not only the right thing to do, but also makes great business sense.
Lead Professional Officer
Jan 2018 – present
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.
Regional Industrial Officer
2016 – present
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.