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Matthew Syed delivers keynote speech at BSAVA Congress
Matthew Syed highlighted the psychological and cultural factors that shape high performance in sport, science and many other fields.

Opening ceremony looks at the importance of being self-aware

British journalist and author Matthew Syed has spoken out about the importance of self-awareness and how it can help people to enjoy a successful professional life.

Speaking at BSAVA Congress on Friday (5 April), the former Olympic table tennis star highlighted the psychological and cultural factors that shape high performance in sport, science and many other fields.

He stressed that there are two ways of looking at success. It is either fixed by talent, predisposition and intelligence or it is something that will grow through discipline, practice and self-evaluation.

Mr Syed gave a number of examples where professionals he has worked with have examined their own shortcomings and worked hard to overcome them. He explained that when ghostwriting David Beckham’s autobiography, his subject insisted that his legendary free-kick taking skills were a result of hours of practice, rather than natural ability.

In another example, Mr Syed spoke about how a similar ability to learn from mistakes has dramatically cut the number of people dying in aviation accidents. He said this was achieved by encouraging a culture in which staff are willing to report near-miss events.

In contrast, 45,000 people a year in the US died from central line infections because senior doctors would not admit to mistakes. Mr Syed claimed that self-justification and error concealment was and still is a key characteristic of the medical profession.

He spoke about how it is common for professionals not to admit their mistakes over fears they will be punished, but added that change can occur when the system encourages the adoption of a ‘no blame culture’.

He concluded there is no place for a dominance hierarchy in the modern world. Respect for the knowledge gained by senior members of a professional team should not prevent colleagues from offering opinions on solving a shared problem.

“Expertise is not about how much we know - it’s about finding what we don’t know,” he said.

Image (C) Paul Clarke Photography.

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Dogs Trust announces winners of vet student awards

News Story 1
 Cambridge vet student James Jewkes has been awarded first place in the annual Dogs Trust EMS Awards, for his paper on the threat of exotic infectious diseases in rehoming centres. James will now go on a two-week placement at the WVS International Training Centre in South India.

Each year the awards allow vet students to gain hands-on experience during work placements at 13 of the charity’s rehoming centres, then submit reports on a relevant subject.  

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Former RCVS president to chair new Horse Welfare Board

Former RCVS president Barry Johnson has been appointed as the independent chair of a new Horse Welfare Board. Barry, who is also past chairman of World Horse Welfare, was selected by an industry panel including the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group.

The welfare board aims to develop a new welfare strategy covering the whole racing industry. Mr Johnson said: “I’m very pleased to have been asked by racing to take on this role and by the sport’s commitment to continuous improvement in the welfare of racehorses."