At Crufts this year, people were asking why NewGenn, a company headed by a veterinary surgeon, addressed such diverse topics as eczema, occupational dermatitis and infection prevention? The latter was obvious enough as The Kennel Club was again relying on our very safe hygiene products for the judges, stewards and vets, and had our hand rub on all the breed pens. But why human eczema and occupational dermatitis? Please allow me to explain.
I co-founded the company years ago with the intention of ending the infection cycles in human hospitals. The real question is what induced me to think I could make a difference? For that we need to go back further.
My veterinary training was done in the ‘70s in Brisbane. The teachers believed in practical training which included challenging the students to challenge them. I came from the harsh and unforgiving Australian outback where you learn at an early age to see what’s around you and challenge it, so this teaching style suited me.
Challenging for challenging’s sake achieves little, especially in a clinical setting. One of my most influential moments was when a teacher I really respected said “That’s a good challenge Harley; now what are you going to do about it?” The realisation that my mentor believed I could do something was a turning point. Once other peoples’ limiting beliefs were set aside, what was stopping me?
I chose to take an extra year during the veterinary course to study pathology. I quickly learned the value of a well conducted post mortem examination. However, for me, if the disease had already occurred, I was too late. What really excited me was finding the very first step in the disease process so I could prevent that first step from happening. Then I really could do something about it. It was much easier to prevent that one little step rather than wait and attempt to stop an established disease.
Thirty years later I’m happy to report important successes where previously elusive first step has been revealed. A wise mentor once said to me “Harley, be aware that you will make nothing; it’s the teams you form who will”. I’ve long cherished that advice. Recently I realised how many people were blocked by the dreaded one-word question; HOW? I mentor them to juggle the letters to find another word; WHO? Nobody breaks disease cycles on their own. I don’t fix a child’s skin to end eczema, the children do it. I set the scene where the parents allow that to happen. I don’t break the infection cycles in hospitals, but if I create and provide the appropriate products the patients and staff do it.
Humility is both a brilliant tool and a lifelong teacher, if you value that. HOW is still an important word as people like to ask me “HOW did you do it?” My answer; “I didn’t, although it was great fun watching others achieve their brilliant successes.”
So what now? A phrase I’ve created is “The answers are out there; we just need to find the questions.” Care to share the fun with me?
Dr Harley Farmer PhD BVSc(hons) BVBiol(path) MRCVS, CEO NewGenn