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Superhero Spotlight - Clinical Director WVS ITC India, Ilona Otter

Fri 26th May 2017

Spanning the globe, WVS – develops and manages international veterinary programs for the benefit of animals & communities worldwide. We also help animals affected by natural disasters or caught in conflict zones. Here we profile our vets working in this organisation, who are elevating our reputation in veterinary science through the work they do. This week the spotlight is on Dr Ilona Otter from Finland, who has been working for WVS since 2009 and has the clinical director of WVS ITC India since it was inaugerated in 2010. She's awesome. You'll like her. 

How did you get into this role?

I was running a small charity called IPAN together with my husband Nigel and we got in contact with WVS already back in 2006 because Luke offered us his help to start an ABC program in a near-by town, Coonoor, where there had been some large scale dog killing happening in the recent past. With that our relationship with WVS and Luke begun and we had many WVS vet volunteers visiting and helping us over the next years. However, it happened that every time Luke visited our project, I was in Finland with our children. So I had never met him personally when he emailed to me in 2009 (after his second visit to IPAN when he and Nigel had discussed the plans to set up a training center for vets) asking if I would like to become the director of this International Training Center. I said yes. A year later, the day before the inauguration of the WVS ITC, that is when I met Luke first time in person. 

What do you have to say about this quote? “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

It is a very wise quote and I agree with it. I see my role as the Clinical Director of WVS ITC, as someone who is giving the platform for others; vets and assistants to develop and learn and shine in the achievements where we as a WVS ITC team can reach. I think I'm happiest when I can give a chance for any of our vets and participants to learn something new. 

What has been the highlight of your career?

The development of a veterinary training center; literally starting from scratch, from initially searching around the area for a suitable building to rent, renovating it and then starting the work with a small team of animal handlers from a local tribal community and one other Indian vet besides me - and seeing it develop into what it is today. A center of excellence in teaching veterinary surgery and animal welfare, well-known across India among the veterinary community. WVS ITC is the dream first job to many young vets and I'm also very happy that we are able to give that boost to many new vets, direct their careers to the right direction from the beginning. So in many ways I feel that I'm living the highlight of my career every day when I watch our vet and assistant team working together, teaching and guiding participants and when I hear the very positive feedback from the participants.  And the surgery training concept developed here is now also in use in the other WVS training centers in Thailand and Goa. And the concept has also been used in training programs arranged in Nepal and Malawi. 

What has been the most challenging part of your job and how did you overcome it?

When there are disagreements among the staff, to solve those situations in the best possible way is always a challenge for which my veterinary education has not given me much tools. Therefore those situations are often more challenging than any complicated surgery. I value our teamwork very highly and try my best to treat everyone equally and give everyone the chance to learn and feel valued in his/her role. Also my husband Nigel, is an excellent guide and support in all the non-veterinary matters in my work and I have learned a lot about staff management from him. 

How would you describe WVS to someone who doesn’t know us?

WVS is an organisation run by very hands-on and field-work-ready people, many of us vets, who strive to bring development and improvement in the veterinary field across the world to improve animal health and welfare. The WVS India team runs two training centers, two outreach field ABC-clinics and collaborates with Mission Rabies to also run surgical training courses in the Mission Rabies truck travelling across India and to run two vaccination teams in the Mission Rabies Goa program. There are 19 vets working with WVS India and they are all really fantastic; excellent surgeons with high regard for animal welfare.