Veterinary Care – Cambridge to Cuba

PetsPyjamas talks to Professor Dick White about founding the largest private specialist-led veterinary referral and training centre in Europe and the excellent work his charity, The Dick White Charitable Foundation, is doing in Cuba to help local stray dogs.

What exactly is a ‘Specialist-led referral centre’?

Professor Dick White (DW): All the patients in the clinic have been referred to us by other veterinary surgeons in practice. They are the first opinion vets but when they need specific expertise or sophisticated equipment such as the MRI scanner, they refer the case to us.

Is it similar to going to see your GP and then being referred to an expert in a specific field?

DW: Yes, that’s exactly how it works.

‘Specialist-led’ – does that means that you are all experts in a particular area of veterinary medicine?

DW: Well, it’s more than just that. For us to be allowed to use the title ‘Specialist’, we must first qualify as vets and then undertake five more years of training in a particular area. This is followed by examinations which are set by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons; or the relevant European or American College. From then on, our status is reviewed regularly to make sure that we are keeping up to date with all recent developments.

So you are also a training establishment?

DW: Yes. In fact we are the largest private veterinary training centre in Europe. Residents who have undertaken their Specialist training with us are now working in very senior positions around the world, and that makes us very proud. We also have a strong link with Nottingham Veterinary School and we visit regularly to lecture to the students there.


How many people work at the centre and how many animals are admitted each year?

DW:  It changes constantly, but we currently employ about 130 people, of whom 40 are qualified vets. We have a very large nursing team as well as technicians and support staff. Most years, we see around 3,000 new cases, in addition to those coming back for re-examination and check-ups.

It is amazing that your business started less than 10 years ago and now employs 130 people. What plans do you have for the future?

DW: Our overriding aim will always be to provide the best possible service for our clients and their pets. My approach to this is to employ the best people and give them first class equipment and facilities. We will be opening a new building in July which will roughly double our floor space. This includes more wards, an expanded laboratory and state of the art physiotherapy unit, as well as some residential accommodation and study areas.


And tell us about how you became involved with the charity in Havana?

DW: Two years ago, my wife, Christine and I visited Cuba and met with the people running the local charity, Aniplant. We just couldn’t believe the conditions in which their volunteer vets were working. They had such skill and dedication but couldn’t achieve their aims because of the lack of basic facilities. We knew we had to help and we are now deeply involved in supporting their clinic and their continuing education.


What have you done to help change the situation over there?

DW: Aniplant were doing its best to tackle the problems by running a neutering campaign but in makeshift clinics in private houses of friend. So, we raised enough money to transform a derelict building in Central Havana into a fully operational clinic for spays and other veterinary treatments. The Foundation is also supporting educational initiatives for Cuban vets.  We have also set up an annual conference for the Cuban vets and this year we are organising an international meeting to encourage vets from other countries to share their knowledge also. To fund the project a number of events have been placed including an Open Day at the clinic near Cambridge on 28th July this year.

PetsPyjamas are proud to support The Dick White Charitable Foundation. For further information about the foundation and its activities, please contact Jan Wade:


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