Category Archives: Careers

Veterinary and animal-related careers comment, advice and guidance.

Tis the Interview Season

Vet with radiograph and catOkay, so your applications have been submitted on time and you’ve been anxiously waiting to hear from the vet schools, a wait that feels like an eternity. Why do the vet schools even bother to interview applicants when a lot of other courses simply allocate places based on UCAS applications and test results? The main reason is that training a vet is a long and costly process, with the vet schools, and profession, very anxious to ensure that the considerable investment that is made in such training is directed to the best candidates and that their students are going to a) finish the course and qualify as a veterinarian, and b) represent a suitable fit for the unique culture of the vet school itself.

Although every vet school achieves the same in terms of training new vets, they each have their own styles of teaching and unique culture which makes attending each one a distinct experience, in much the same way that different companies have their own ‘culture.’ The vet schools will be asking themselves whether you, as an individual, are likely to enjoy their school’s vet school experience and ultimately benefit from the training. I am sure that you would agree that spending many thousands of pounds on someone without a face-to-face meeting seems like quite a risky move so it seems only right that the vet schools take as much care as possible in choosing their new intake.

If you are fortunate enough to receive an invitation to interview then the first thing to do is massively congratulate yourself as it is a huge achievement in itself. Admissions tutors receive applications, read them and then make a decision as to whether your application is of sufficient interest to take it further, moving you closer to the coveted prize of a place, or to say no, in which case you’ll receive a rejection. As such, an interview invite is a sign that they are very interested in you and that they can see sufficient potential in you as a future vet to spend the time and effort getting to know you better. Loads of applicants fail to make it past the initial application stage so an interview invitation is definately a cause for celebration.

How do I interview well?

The main answer to this question, like most, is to practice. There are very few times when practice does not make perfect and interviews are no exception. Now of course you can’t accurately predict what will happen on the day or what the interviewers will ask so there is little point trying to do so. What you can do, however, is prepare to be a confident, well informed, communicative candidate who oozes with motivation, passion and an obvious burning desire to study veterinary at the university you are fortunate enough to be invited to an interview at. The vet schools are not looking for students who already know everything there is to know about animals and veterinary science – if they filled places with such candidates then there would be little need for vets schools at all. What they are looking for are the kind of students we have already discussed and it is these aforementioned qualities that you should be aiming to project on the day.

Interviewing, or indeed presenting, well is a product of a number of complimentary factors that ultimately work together to give the desired impression to your audience. The key factor is preparation.

Preparation

Do you simply turn up to an important exam and sit it without any form of preparation? If you do and you do well then congratulations as you are a very rare breed. If, however, you are like the vast majority of us mere mortals then I strongly suspect the answer is “of course not!” You revise and you practice past papers. This is to a) ensure that you understand and can recall the important information that may well be required in the exam, and b) to familiarise yourself with the format, length and pressure of the exam. This latter exercise is effectively desensitisation at work, as you gradually reduce your initial, automatic, and ultimately unhelpful and damaging, response to a stressful situation. If you did go into an exam without any prior knowledge of the format then chances are that you would spend most of your time getting flustered about how long you had to answer the questions, the fact that you didn’t have access to textbooks, and the general stress of being in an unfamiliar situation. This would clearly detract from the important task of getting on and understanding the questions and writing sensible answers in the time allotted. This is no different to an interview and going into one without any level of prior preparation and ‘desensitisation’ will likely lead to you feeling anxious from the moment you enter, with the result likely to be a horribly stressful experience. But how exactly can you prepare well for an interview, and specifically a vet school interview. Well, read on and we shall learn.

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

There is little point in starting your preparation the evening before your interview. This is akin to cramming for an exam: pointless and just results in misery for all concerned. You know that you’re going to apply to vet school. You also know that the interviews tend to start around November and run through until about March. I would personally start thinking and planning my approach to interviews in August, or at least September, before you have even sent off your application. Just the very act of thinking about an upcoming event gets all of your subconscious neurones firing away and before you know it you’ll be able to draw up a winning ‘how to be awesome at interviews’ plan in time for the ‘season.’ The sooner you start thinking about the interviews then the more time you will have to find out the format, and practice using this knowledge, request references if you haven’t already got them, start reading around relevant subjects and generally morphing into an interview King or Queen.

Which Vet Schools?

There is no point spending precious time practicing for multiple, short interviews if you are not applying to Liverpool, so consider which of the vet schools you are applying to and tailor the specifics of your preparation to them. Much of your preparation, such as background reading, and getting used to being questioned in formal settings, will be the same regardless of which vet schools you apply to but there are some subtle differences that it is important to be aware of when preparing yourself. After all, time is a precious commodity to a prospective vet student.

Any Useful Contacts?

Do you know anyone who is either studying at or has previously applied and been interviewed at the vet schools that you’re planning on applying to? If so then why not get in touch and ask if they would be willing to give you some helpful insight into that school’s interview, including any questions that might have been asked. There is no guarantee that the same questions will be asked of you but it can be useful to get a sense of the type of questions that might crop up during your interview.

Be Informed

As a future veterinary professional it will be expected that you are taking an active interest in what is happening to affect the profession, and to have an awareness of issues and news of relevance. A classic example would be the whole issue surrounding TB and badgers, which you would be mad not to have some knowledge of before heading to a vet school interview. Talk to vets, vet students, farmers, animal owners and anyone else who you consider to be involved in caring for animals. What issues are they talking about and consider to be important? Chances are that the same issues will be the ones on the minds of the interview panel. Try and get hold of copies of publications such as Vet Times, which most vets will gladly put aside for you once they’ve read their copy, as these are the very best source of up to the minute industry news and comment. You certainly don’t have to go as far as keeping press clippings but making a few notes on a few relevant issues might not be a bad idea. If anything, they may well serve as a useful refresher before the interview itself.

Statement – Know It!

Its not at all uncommon for an interview to be guided by what’s written in your statement. After all, this is the first place that the vet schools get to find out something about you and so it is perfectly natural that it should act as a launchpad for further questioning. It may seem like a stupidly obvious thing to say but it is so important that you know your statement like the back of your hand, as any discrepency between what you have written and what you then say in an interview will come across poorly. Read your statement through and internalise it until you are virtually dreaming about it at night.

Mock Interviews

Much as a mock exam allows you to get used to exam conditions, identify areas for improvement and generally get better at taking exams, mock interviews do the same for your interview success. Ensure that you manage to do at least one mock interview as I guarantee that you will realise the benefits. It is important with any mock that you recreate as best you can the actual scenario that you are practicing for, including the sense of formality that an interview has. It is only by repeatedly putting yourself in conditions which accurately mirror the real one that you will start to develop the skills and familiarity with the format that will enable you to focus your mind on the aspects of the activity that are going to enable you to excel, rather than worrying about the minor details over which you have no control.

No Friends or Family

As we are aiming to recreate as closely as possible the setting of a real interview, there is little to no point asking your parents, friends or siblings to conduct a mock interview with you as you are obviously on familiar and friendly terms with them, meaning that you won’t feel that sense of formality and seriousness that the real interview will have and so won’t be able to desensitise yourself to the pressure and anxiety of such a setting. Rather, ask your school if they can help by arranging a mock interview with a member of staff who you might not be too familiar with, or perhaps a school governor. Schools will often have links with local business people, including veterinarians, and so may be able to ask such professionals if they would be willing to conduct a mock interview with you. The result is that a) you will likely find yourself doing your mock interview(s) somewhere far more formal, and realistic, than at home, and b) will take the exercise as seriously as you would the real interview, something that is less likely if your best mate or mum was the interviewer. The feedback you receive from an unfamiliar, professional interviewer is also likely to be far more honest and constructive than that which would come from friends, who are naturally going to want to make you feel good about yourself. It is, however, really vital that you get to identify those things that you did particularly well, and this need less attention and development, and, more importantly, those things that require work and that you can improve on before your actual interviews commence. If possible, try and arrange for your mock to be conducted by more than one person as this will more accurately mirror the real scenario and also result in feedback from more than one person, which is always handy.

Dress Like You Mean It

Would you turn up to your vet school interview in a pair of jeans and T-shirt? No, of course not, so why not extend the principle of a mock to your dress as well by going along dressed for the occasion. The point of everything we do with mock interviews is to make sure you feel as comfortable and relaxed as you can come the big day, and to prepare your mind fully for the event. Anchoring is a term used to describe a process by which our mind forms a link between verbal cues, physical objects, and other such triggers, and our emotional state and subconscious mind. So by practicing your interview technique, including recreating such factors as what you wear, your mind will anchor the feeling of confidence, knowledge and ability that you will develop through practice to such factors as your dress. The result is that when you put on the same sort of clothes on interview day, your mind will automatically switch itself to the same state that it developed during your mocks, and you are far more likely to stride into your interview feeling the same sense of confidence and preparedness, with positive results.

As for dress code, I am sure you can probably guess for yourself but a general guide would be to encourage the following:

Males – a smart, well fitting suit with creaseless/ ironed shirt, or smart pair of trousers, such as Chinos, with a similarly smart shirt. The issue of whether to wear a tie is down to personal preference in my opinion and is not compulsory. Smart, clean shoes are essential to finish off the interview look.

Females – there is perhaps a little more choice and flexibility for you, from the option of a simple yet smart skirt – no mini skirts, as we don’t want the interviewers having heart attacks – and blouse, to the classic trouser suit, which can be worn with either a blouse or appropriately smart top. Needless to say, anything too low-cut or that otherwise exposes too much flesh should be avoided. A basic rule  is to say that if your gran would approve then you’re probably on the right track. Smart shoes, as above, will finish the look.

Timing & Location

Once you have confirmed someone to conduct your mock interview, you’ll need someplace to be interviewed. This will probably be an office or classroom at school or, if with a local professional, at their place of work. Confirm the date, time and location of the interview and ensure you arrive nice and early, as you would on the actual interview, with time to sit quietly outside the room before being called in. Try and stick to the interview being no more than twenty minutes, as is likely to be the case with actual vet school interviews, although it is not a major issue if it does run over as all it will do is provide extra feedback.

If your school, or the person who has agreed to interview you, is not familiar with the format of veterinary interviews or would find it helpful to have access to a list of suitable questions, then get in touch via Facebook or Twitter and let me know.

Film Yourself

I am sure that like most people the idea of seeing yourself on video is beyond awkward and you’d rather not even contemplate the idea. It is, however, an excellent way of rapidly improving your interview skills and I urge you to overcome your concerns and fire up the camera. By filming and then reviewing your mock interviews, you will be able to see every aspect of your performance, from how you entered to how quickly and clearly you speak, to whether or not you have any potentially irritating tics, such as toe tapping or drumming your fingers on the table, which you might never have been aware that you even did. I firmly believe that reviewing video of your mock interviews is one of the most powerful tools in helping you to ace your vet school interviews, so go on, become a star.

Keep checking the Vet School Success Facebook page, sign up for the newsletter and follow Chris on Twitter (@thenerdyvet) for more interview advice and help.

South African Safari

A month volunteering at a vet project in Limpopo, South Africa

Russ Fleming in South AfricaRussell Kelaart

Firstly, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to take a gap year.  There were various reasons for me taking a gap year, primarily to gain more work experience in preparation for veterinary medicine applications to university.  It is my goal to become a wildlife vet in African conservation, and undertaking work experience in this field has been extremely beneficial.  It has enabled me to participate in the work that I would be doing as a vet, it was able to make contacts there, and I have learnt a great deal not only about the work but also South Africa and life in general.  I also made some amazing friends.  Having paid for the entire trip myself and for a short time living on my own out there I have gained that much more independence.

“It was the best month of my life.”

I travelled with a company called the African Conservation Experience.  They support select conservation projects by sending volunteers, and volunteers pay them indirectly via ACE.

My project is listed under Phola Veterinary Experience and is located at a small frontier town called Alldays in Limpopo province.  80% of our time was spent the vet Dr. Dup Du Plessis who runs the recently built clinic in the town.  Nearly all of this time was spent out in the field on game farms, the rest of the time (generally weekends) was spent at the local game farm were we slept in tents out in the bush where the night sky was always dark enough to see the Milky Way.

With the vet day to day operations consisted largely of animal capture.  We would draw up a dart for the animal, then dart it, follow it until it went down, get it on a stretcher if we had to move it, and then wake it up.  Depending on the circumstance this entire process could take anything from 7 minutes to half an hour.  When using anaesthetics such as etorphine, animals lose their ability to regulate their temperature so it was of paramount importance that we got the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible when most days it was nearly 35*C.  We soon became an efficient team in the process of game capture.

At our first capture Dup said “We don’t go around bushes, we go through bushes.”  At first I thought he was joking but in that kind of environment there is not the time or space for anything between 6 and 18 people to walk around a Winter Thorn Bush or the aptly named “Stay a while” thorn bush.  Dragging a male Waterbuck 100m to the transport “bakkie” through dense scrub can be interesting to say the least.  At times we were aided by “pangas” or machetes, other times we just ploughed through.

A bakkie is a pick-up truck, in which we travelled everywhere.  Getting to drive a Toyota Hilux through the African bush at night on my own was an experience I will never forget!  Given that there was often not enough space in the cab extra passengers rode on the back everywhere.  And depending on who was driving you could sometimes find yourself temporarily suspended in the air over a particularly rough track.

Generally we were safety conscious and took all the precautions we could, but you can never really fully predict animals.  Having worked with lions, rhinos and crocodiles most people are surprised to hear that I would consider the most dangerous animal there the buffalo.  One day we darted 38 to draw bloods to test for Bovine Tuberculosis.  Nervous creatures at the best of times they were becoming increasingly skittish as we removed completed individuals out of the temporary holding pen and back onto the reserve via a partition through the pen.  After a buffalo had gone down the rest of the herd would be moved into the other half of the pen by the tractor and the owner’s bakkie.  It was a huge operation, but was running smoothly.

One went down near the corner.  Needing a new needle and shoulder to draw blood for samples I was to go and get them – they were outside the pen the other side of the gate.  The small remainder of the herd had been driven to the other side so thinking we were alone the owner, Jaque, and I went to open the gate in the corner.  Reaching the gate Dup screams.  Turning, we face a buffalo cow that has been separated from her calf.  We are cornered.  She charges.  Jaque grabs her horns to push her out of the corner, having none of it she easily flicks him back tearing a huge whole across his shirt.   For some reason she suddenly turns around and runs off.  With Jaque on the floor against the wall I am assuming the worst but he shouts to get up on the fence.  Somehow he follows, just before the buffalo returns to have another go, eyeing us above her on the fence.  The rest of the team manage to get her out.  Unbelievably, Jaque is asking if I am OK!  I reply yes then tentatively ask him if he is.  I cannot believe he is still breathing, let alone climbing the 4m fence.  By some extraordinary stroke of luck he is largely unscathed with only a substantial bruise.

After, as the adrenaline rush hits I can only laugh.  I laugh with the workers as they ask me what I saw in that corner. With a wry smile Dup says “It’s funny now,” then shakes his head in disbelief.  He seems more relieved than I.  Later he tells the anecdote of how the same situation occurred but where the gate was locked and he watched another vet have his heart and rib cage gored out by a buffalo.  Over the next few weeks he reminds me every now and then about how lucky I was, and how I probably don’t fully appreciate what peril I was actually in.  It is funny how an incident that lasted no longer than 5 seconds stays with you.

“Some people would say it’s strange that I can’t imagine anything better than doing this for the rest of my life.”

LionessDespite the large amounts of exhilarating buffalo work the real highlight of my trip was getting to work with a lioness.  Due to a land dispute on a huge game farm she was being kept in temporary accommodation with her ‘husband’ and her son.  In such a limited abode any family pride structure had broken down and being the little one she was on the receiving end of frequent altercations.  She was limping badly, but more worryingly her right ear was torn and badly infected.  We darted her then others in 4x4s drove the male lions as far away as they could within the confines of this camp.  Monitoring vitals is crucial, as it’s the first indicator that something’s going wrong.

Listening to her heartbeat was an experience I will never forget.

Pet Sitters in France

18 Alpacas, 12 Cats, 6 Dogs and 2 Turtles Later

James with Alpaca
James with one of the eldest of the Alpacas, Jessica.

Last July my partner (Jemma) and I set off on an adventure to go off and live in France. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of looking after all of the animals mentioned in the title and no doubt there are plenty more opportunities on their way, although I’m not sure if alpacas will ever crop up again.

Don’t think I’m writing this to make you jealous about all of the wine and cheese I’m eating; cheese-envy is completely natural and something that can’t be avoided. I’m writing this because it recently occurred to me that what I’m doing (as someone who isn’t a vet or has any intention of becoming one) could be a fantastic opportunity for anyone who did want to become a vet.

So what am I doing?

I’m housesitting. Basically when pet owners go away they need someone to look after their pets. They then post an advert on a housesitting website like Trusted Housesitters. As a housesitter I keep an eye on their list of housesitting jobs and whenever one pops up, bingo, I apply. I don’t get paid for housesitting (although some people do charge for their housesitting services) instead I use it as a source of free accommodation to travel.

Why it might be useful for you

Looking after animals and practicing as a vet are obviously two completely different things, however the first reason it might be of interest to you is that as a vet, you’re likely to be an animal lover like myself. If you are looking after people’s pets might have an appeal for the sole reason that you like animals.

Secondly, as a student you’ve probably got ambitions to travel. No I’m not saying that housesitting will add to your CV, but I think should you decide to take a year out, having spent that year looking after other people’s animals rather than say working in a bar in Melbourne will do more for your CV.

Working with alpacas, which admittedly was a housesitting rarity and might be more common on a wwoofing  website, also gave us several weeks of daily herd animal experience, something that’s often hard to come by.

What kind of experience can I expect?

Before we started out as housesitters, we expected most housesitting jobs to mean walking the dog and feeding the cat, but we’ve found an increasing number of the pets that we’ve looked after have needed medication and treatment. We’ve worked with cats that have needed pills and syrups at specific times throughout the day and alpacas that have needed cream rubbed on their testicles (not my favourite experience) or infections cleaned out (which we actually worked alongside a vet to do). It’s not something we mind doing, but no doubt most pet owners are cautious leaving that kind of responsibility in the hands of just anyone; as a veterinary student or graduate you would no doubt be welcomed with open arms by pet owners whose animals were in these kinds of conditions.

Just a thought.

James

London Vet Show – Buzzing!

LVS 2012, Main ExhibitionI love vet congresses and see them always remaining an important part of our professional lives, not only in terms of CPD, which I actually think is probably delivered more effectively now through other mediums, especially online methods, but more in terms of the fact that they provide the single best way of bringing vets, and those involved in delivering veterinary services, together under one roof. The advantages of this were evident during the two days of the London Vet Show, held at London Olympia in Kensington, at which I had the pleasure of meeting up with loads of friends, from both former and current jobs, vet school and industry contacts. There is no other way that you would expect to just be able to bump into someone whom you might not have seen for five years and for it to feel as though you were still at vet school. I think most vets would agree that the best bit about congresses such as LVS is the social aspect.

It wasn’t all hanging out with friends and flexing my social muscles though, with lots to achieve during the two days, including gathering research and images for an article I have been working on for the veterinary press, discuss careers issues with members of the veterinary profession, and expanding my veterinary knowledge by attending lectures. Perhaps it would be easier to give you an insight into a vet congress by guiding you through my two days…

 

Day 1: Hypercalcaemia & Competition Marathon

  • An early start for an early train for an early arrival in London. Clutching my pass I entered the impressive, expansive, timeless space of Olympia in London and en-route to my first lecture of the day was immediately distracted by an exciting new piece of technology: a simple to use ECG (VetCor) that reads out on an iPhone or iPod Touch and was as simple to use as can be. Definitely one for the blog! Getting through the exhibition hall, which is huge and packed full of various stands ranging from the big pet food and drug companies, to small independent suppliers of a range of services and products, to veterinary groups and specialists, is difficult without being drawn into perusing the stands or stopping to talk to those you know. I definitely needed to keep focused on my aim of getting into my first lecture of the day, on calcium disorders in animals, and made it into the huge lecture area to take up a seat, funnily enough, next to an old friend from Bristol Vet School.

 

  • An excellent lecture during which I learn’t a good couple of nuggets of clinically relevant information which I can take back to my day to day work as a vet. Right, time for a coffee with another vet school friend.

 

  • Another lecture to attend, although I quickly realise that it is not the one I thought it was going to be and turns out not to be too interesting. Still, it is a good opportunity to fill out all of the various competition slips in the congress handbook in preparation to hand them in at the various company stands and hopefully win some cool prizes, with the chances of securing an iPad appearing pretty good on account of virtually every stand offering one as a prize! The London Vet Show does offer delegates some pretty amazing chances to win great prizes, with the main prize for collecting a variety of stamps from across a range of exhibiting companies being a safari in Africa, organised by the awesome team at The Worldwide Veterinary Service, WVS.

 

  • The next few hours are a blur of competition entering, discussing new developments in veterinary and the various products and services on offer, including some very interesting new tech, and just hanging out with friends over lunch. Tickets to the London Vet Show include a bag containing an official show guide, including synopses of the lectures, and important show information, the aforementioned competition slips and lunch is included as well, which we collected from the centre of the beautiful main Olympia hall, where the exhibition was taking place.

 

  • If I had been more organised and booked in advance then I would have spent the afternoon attending one of the practical sessions delivered by veterinary specialists Dick White Referrals. As it turned out, these sessions proved to be very popular and so were booked up early. As useful as lectures can be, I definitely feel that practical CPD is the most useful as a lot of what we do in our jobs as vets is very practical in nature and I am sure you can all appreciate how much more effective it is to learn to do something by, well, actually doing it. Still, maybe next year.

 

  • An afternoon lecture on feline triaditis, which I found myself watching from a very comfortable reclined position on the floor, due to the fact that the big lecture room was packed. I must admit that it was very tempting to catch a few Z’s during the lecture – not a comment on the interest level but more a reflection of the fact that I had just had lunch and found myself in a very comfortable position laying on the floor watching the lecture on one of the many video screens around the room.

 

  • Another round of exhibition touring before attending a small Cuban cocktail party being hosted by a referral centre and yet more catching up with former lecturers and friends. A decent warm up to another drinks reception at the nearby Hilton, hosted by webinar provider, The Webinar Vet, complete with pizza, meaning that dinner was sorted 🙂

 

  • Quick drop off of bags at my (over-priced, yet conveniently located) hotel and it was off out into Kensington to find a pub for a few drinks and a good evening of chatting with a good friend. Lots of delegates were at the Vets Now party, which was the official party of the show, and saw the guests entertained in dazzling fashion by, amongst other treats, a fire-eating display. We vets sure do know how to party!

 

  • Not enough sleep before getting to do it all over again….

 

Day 2: Tech & Vet Education

  • Its always a good idea to fuel up well at breakfast when attending any vet shows, as there is a lot of walking around to do and you sure do need the energy. All fuelled up, it was straight back into research for the article and meetings with vets involved in the new book I am working on.

 

  • The first talk of the day for me was a small group session with Noel Fitzpatrick, of Fitzpatrick Referrals, during which we spent a good hour learning about elbow dysplasia and the exciting new developments in veterinary orthopaedics. I am always amazed at what is now possible, and pioneering vets like Noel continue to push the boundaries.

 

  • The next lecture was unfortunately so popular that I was not able to even get into the hall and so it was back to the exhibition for some more perusing and research.

 

  • Lunch with a friend and a really good discussion about veterinary education and the future of the profession. We both agreed that the next ten years are going to be very interesting in terms of the anticipated changes in the veterinary labour market.

 

  • As much as my mind was willing and I had every intention of attending another lecture, the fact is I still had so much to do in the main exhibition, with the rest of the afternoon involving tying off loose ends and bringing the two days to a close.

 

  • A cheeky curry and a few pints with some vet school friends before getting the wrong train home and a later than expected return!

As you can see, veterinary congresses are a really great way to pack in a range of CPD opportunities, including some practicals, whilst also offering one of the best ways to catch up with all those friends from vet school and the wider profession who you may not have seen since the previous year. Yet another good year and looking forward to the next one.

Conference Season – Fun & Learning

Vets don’t stop learning the minute they leave vet school. In fact, quite the contrary. CPD, or Continuing Professional Development, is something that we all have to keep up with in order to retain our MRCVS registration and as well as reading, Webinars, practical courses, and in-house presentations and talks, much of the CPD we complete is delivered via conferences and shows. These are a great chance to add to our knowledge, by attending lectures, presentations and workshops by recognised experts, as well as meet various companies and other relevant organisations in the exhibition hall, and meet up with friends and colleagues. Conferences are as much social events as they are educational exercises, and I personally love the fact that I get to easily catch up with friends who I might not have seen since vet school.

Two of the conferences and congresses going on at this time of year are the following:

British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) Congress

British Cattle Veterinary Association15th – 17th November, The International Telford Centre, Telford. This is the place to be if you’re involved in cattle practice. Close to the Harper Adams College University, Telford is the perfect site for the UK’s cattle vets to get together to discuss all aspects of cattle production, from dairy to beef, and to get in some serious CPD.

The London Vet Show (Small Animals)

London Vet ShowThis is the one I am heading to and runs for two days (15th and 16th November) at London Olympia. It is a relatively new congress yet has grown steadily, offering a really good range of CPD opportunities, including the BVA (British Veterinary Association) Careers stream and several practical workshops, as well as a big trade show and dedicated Party Night.

A new UK vet school. Good news?

Anyone considering applying to study veterinary was handed some potentially very good news recently as the University of Surrey announced that it was establishing the UK’s newest vet school, with the first cohort of undergraduates due to enter in 2014. This came as quite the bolt out of the blue for most members of the veterinary profession, with only six years having passed since the establishment of Nottingham Vet School. On the face of it another vet school may well seem like an excellent step for the profession, but is it? Do we really need another vet school? What effect will it have on the training of new vets? How will it affect the veterinary job market in a few years time, if at all? These are but a few of the questions that have been raised since the news and we will explore some of the initial thoughts here.

How will Surrey be different?

“One Health – One Medicine”

According to the University of Surrey website, and recent press-releases, the focus of the new vet school will be on the closer integration between advancements in both human and veterinary medicine and science, a theme championed by pioneering Surrey orthopaedic and neurology veterinary surgeon, Noel Fitzpatrick, who is apparently very heavily involved in the planning and establishment of the new school. Students will have the opportunity to work across faculties, learning about the work of not only veterinarians but also exploring advancements in such areas as human prosthetic developments and material science.

Another key focus, according to the PR, is going to be on livestock medicine. Westpoint, a large farm animal veterinary company with operations across the country, are also key players in the coming about of the new school in Guildford, and will be instrumental in delivering much of the farm animal teaching. The model for the school appears to be somewhat similar to that developed by Nottingham, with the importance of close links with local practices, from small animal first opinion and specialist, to equine, farm and research, with such institutions as the BBSRC Pirbright Institute representing key partners.

Is establishing another vet school necessary?

Although no-one is suggesting that the founding principles of the new school are sound there is some debate as to whether ploughing resources into a new vet school is the way to further such ties between human and veterinary disciplines. Many argue that it makes far more sense to invest in the UK’s existing vet schools, working to expand on their long and proven record of research and development in the field of veterinary, and building stronger links with faculties and departments that have a direct impact on human healthcare developments, including medical schools, of which every current UK vet school has within their parent universities. Are we not, by creating another focus of veterinary attention, simply threatening to dilute the efforts of researchers at the existing schools, with the long-term result being a greater number of vet schools but with no really outstanding centres for innovation? The other question to ask is what exactly the new school sees itself doing that is going to be so different to the training offered by the other established vet schools, and whether a markedly different course, if that is the plan, is going to ultimately benefit graduates and the profession. If the curriculum is going to be very similar to that offered at existing schools then the question remains “do we need more vets qualifying from the UK each year?” If, however, the emphasis of the new course is to be on very specialist, cutting-edge aspects of veterinary medicine then are we not in danger of qualifying a large number of vets who might be able to discuss the pros and cons of artificial elbows in dogs, for example, but have a superficial to poor grounding in basic, day one veterinary skills. There has already, in my opinion, been evidence of some veterinary graduates leaving university with pretty rudimentary surgical skills, owing, quite simply, to a lack of opportunities to hone such vital skills. I don’t see how this will be helped by the addition of another 100 or so new students each year.

Is there enough work for more vets?

With no reliable source of across-the-board employment data for the veterinary profession the answer to this question is one that is most likely to be debated based on unofficial observations and personal opinions. It is my view that until very recently graduates from the UK’s vet schools have enjoyed the benefit of entering a labour market in which there were more jobs available than vets, with the result being a negligibly low unemployment rate amongst UK vets and thus employment readily available to a swathe of eager and equally skilled vets from outside of the country, especially from places such as Australia and South Africa. This, however, is apparently changing, with reports of veterinary graduates finding it significantly harder to secure their first jobs after leaving university and many joining the ranks of graduates in other subjects in having to undertake unpaid experience, or significantly lower paid nursing and animal technician duties, in order to keep their skills and participation within the profession current. This, it could be argued, creates further issues by increasing the level of competition for entry-level nursing and animal care assistant positions. I can honestly say right now that if anyone told me that after five years at university, with an accrued debt of many thousands of pounds, that I would have difficulties securing a job as a vet at the end of it, I would have seriously considered other career options. One of the questions that I get asked by students considering a veterinary career, and predominantly it appears by males, is how hard it is to find a job after qualifying. Job security and availability is clearly an area of concern to young people and any profession in which supply starts to exceed demand is potentially going to see a long-term tail off in applicants. Physiotherapy is one example of a profession where there are significantly more practitioners qualifying each year than there are posts for them to fill, with the result being disillusioned professionals just starting their careers – not a good welcome to any profession. I hasten to add, however, that there is no concrete evidence for this yet being the case with veterinary, although I would welcome the publication of employment data for veterinary graduates, as this will help us to monitor any trends. A cursory glance at the job pages of the Veterinary Times each week does indeed suggest that there are a good number of veterinary positions available. However, a closer read does reveal that many of the positions specifically request experienced applicants, not necessarily new graduates. Of course, the changing demographic of the veterinary profession, with more vets choosing part-time work to fit around family commitments or just to enjoy a better work-life balance, may well open up more employment opportunities. These are certainly interesting times that we are living and practicing in and it will be fascinating to see how the profession continues to evolve.

What will happen to salaries?

This is another concern amongst many vets, with a number arguing that swelling the supply of vets available will surely lead to salary deflation or, at best, a real reluctance on the part of employers to raise assistants’ salaries during their employment as they will be in a much better position to be able to employ new vets in the event that existing vets leave. The business of salaries is a murky one already, with little readily available reliable data on salaries for vets, and most practices having vets on different salaries, sometimes markedly so, when they are, effectively, doing the same job. My experience so far has been that unless I specifically asked for a fair salary review each year, with at least one example of feeling that I had to move on to another practice in order to raise my salary to a realistic amount for my level of experience, then I would still be on the salary I started out on, which compared to professionals in areas such as medicine, law, accountancy and dentistry would have been lamentable. The fact that vets are, by comparison, underpaid for the complex, difficult work that they do is one that is not generally recognised, with the vast majority of the public assuming that we are all paid fortunes. Although it is not a certainty that the earning potential of vets in the future will be adversely affected by an increase in supply of skilled vets, it is worth considering and recognising the fact that with more applicants per job, the upward pressure on salaries will be much less.

Interesting Time for Veterinary Education

How things have changed over the course of the past few decades, from the huge swing in the demographic of the profession to the changes in how veterinary services are delivered, levels of specialism and the establishment of not just one but now two new vet schools, it feels as though we are entering a very interesting phase as veterinarians and I for one look on with deep interest. The new vet school is happening – that is a fact – and the first twenty-five students are due to be enrolled in September 2014. What isn’t confirmed is whether the course will be accredited by the RCVS, although based on Nottingham’s experience I would say that it is a technicality and there is no reason not to think that the new vets graduating from Guildford in 2019 will be awarded MRCVS status. The question of what the profession they will enter will look like, however, does remain an interesting one. Exciting times indeed.

What can you learn from a Fall to Earth?

Space jump – what lessons for vet students?

Jump from the edge of Space
A lot can be learn’t from Felix’s jump into the unknown

As Felix Baumgartner shifted towards the edge of his balloon capsule I was, like a good seven million others, already on the edge of my seat, waiting for a monumental feat of daring, planning and, some might say, down right stupidity to finally play out after five years of planning. As a skydiver myself I was hopelessly hooked on the idea of free falling from space, knowing first hand the sheer exhilaration of falling – although it feels more like flying, hence the appeal – at terminal velocity toward the Earth, surveying our wonderful planet from a vista from which it was intended to be seen. However, what Felix was attempting, and subsequently achieved, was of a whole other magnitude. Seeing the Earth from the capsule and watching Felix “go over” and then plummet toward the ground at speeds faster than a speeding bullet was the ultimate adrenaline junky buzz, and I could hear skydivers the world over jumping up and down and high-fiving one another. Although I very nearly missed the big event on account of a dog who chose that specific period of the day to start seizuring, despite not showing even the hint of a twitch all day, it was a big moment for daredevils, science and sheer real-life entertainment.

But what lessons, if any, can you take from a man who voluntarily leaps into the great unknown, with the risk of a pretty gruesome death a very real risk, that can apply to vet school and the task of applying? Surprisingly, quite a few!

Felix Jumps into…. Vet School:

1. Have a vision & believe in it – Felix had a big vision and in spite of many, I am sure, telling him he was insane and that what he was wanting to do was impossible, he ignored the naysayers, applied himself and stayed focused on his ultimate aim. How many of you are surrounded by people telling you that vet school is beyond your reach and that it would be better for you to focus on a career choice that is “more attainable?” Unless you have the focus and determination of Felix, then most of us might be swayed by such negativity and change track, possibly looking back years later to ask “what if?” Don’t be that person. If you believe that veterinary is for you and are prepared to research, apply yourself and strive for your ultimate goal, then go for it and like Felix, work hard toward making the leap.

2. Plan like you’re going to jump from space – Felix and his team left absolutely no stone unturned and planned for every eventuality in the five years leading up to the big jump itself. Although there were a couple of hold-your-breath moments during the ascent and jump, the thorough planning of the team and Felix’s skill and preparation saw to it that they were minor hiccups rather than catastrophes. You know you want to be a vet and you know when you need to submit your application. As such, sit down and do some serious planning. Make the most of excellent resources, like this newsletter and the new website, to ensure that you leave no stone unturned and make the big jump into vet school as smooth as a space-freefall.

3. Pick your team wisely – You’re probably thinking “team? what team? I’m the only one applying to vet school.” Thats correct but then Felix was the only one to jump from the capsule. What got him there, in large part however, was the support and guidance of some fantastically motivated and skilled people who shared the same vision. You should find such people to surround you in your preparations to apply to vet school. From enthusiastic and supportive teachers at school, to generous professionals willing to conduct mock interviews, to work-experience placement providers, and positive friends and family, your support network is potentially huge and with the right help and guidance from them, you will find the journey towards vet school applications a lot less lonely and so much more rewarding.

4. Prepare for the extreme – During his free fall, Felix started spinning rapidly with a very real risk that he would pass out from the effects, which would have been disastrous. He was, however, able to correct his situation and bring things back under control, ultimately leading to success. What enabled him to do that was a combination of focused preparation and practice, including ‘mock’ jumps so that he could get used to some elements of what he could expect during the real thing. Parallels with mock interviews are clear – by preparing and practicing under conditions that are as close to the real thing as possible, then you’ll find that when the unexpected does happen, you’ll avoid entering a spin of your own.

5. Celebrate monumental successes – One thing we can all be sure of is that once back on terra firma, Felix would have had one hell of a party. And so he should have! It is really important to celebrate and recognise achievements, especially those that we have to strive for. Make sure you celebrate your achievements on your route towards vet school.

So there you have it. You can learn something from a man who throws himself from space!

Thought I’d pop down to the new vet school

University of SurreyWhat do you do when you write books on getting into vet school and vet careers, have a day off and find yourself living just down the road from the site of a proposed new vet school? Yep, so I did.

First Impressions

The main reason I wanted to visit was to gain a first impression of the university and campus, much the same way that you would if you were to attend an open day or, better still, pop along for a visit as, well, a uni student. The fact is that I look like any other student, or maybe a youthful lecturer (cue mocking laughter), and so was not concerned about just wandering around and getting a feel for the place. In fact I am writing this post whilst sat drinking a hot chocolate in the on-campus Starbucks, which is heaving I might add.

So, what first impressions and what can a whole new set of veterinary pioneers expect to find when they arrive fresh faced and eager to begin their studies. My visit started with having to fork out a scandalous amount of change on car parking, with the only options being ‘all day’ or ‘all day.’ The fact that my pockets were made lighter did at least make the gentle uphill stroll to the centre of the Stag’s Hill Campus a little easier, with the route taking me past a number of classic student accommodation blocks, although the new crop of vet students are due to be based, and housed, at the university’s Manor Park campus, located a little further west, on the edge of the Royal Surrey County Hospital & Research Park. The ‘centre,’ if you can judge the students union as that, is a fairly typical twentieth century affair, with mostly uninspiring concrete block buildings housing the usual range of services, from cafeterias to bars to student information offices to the aforementioned international coffee chains. The biological and health sciences blocks, which it can only be assumed at this stage might host some of the vet teaching, sit directly behind, or in front of depending on your orientation, of the union and I am sure that the teaching and research being conducted inside is infinitely more inspiring than the exterior facades.

 

Picturesque

There are some quite pretty areas of the main Stag Hill campus, from the lake to Guildford Cathedral, which sits within the campus and atop an easily scaled hill. With the sun shining brightly today it was easy to see why a group of staff (I think) had elected to take their exercise class in the cathedral’s impressive shadow. There are a number of newer buildings and, like any university with ambition and space, the campus seems to be growing. It remains to be seen whether the vet course will see the building of brand new facilities, although I suspect it will, and even whether the new students will even be taught on the main campus. [Since writing this, it has been made public that new facilities will be built on the Manor Park campus, including research and teaching labs, diagnostic and teaching pathology facilities and clinical teaching areas. The work is due to start in 2014, with completion scheduled for August 2015. The first twenty five students to enter the vet course will therefore use existing facilities, which may include those based on the Stag’s Hill campus]. I look forward to learning more along with you all as we get closer to the first round of admissions.

Student Life

What of the students themselves? The first thing to report is that there is a good cross section of students represented on campus and a good international blend, with English, Russian, Chinese, and a number of other languages entering my hearing range as I sit and type. It will be interesting to see what happens when 100 or so over-achieving future vets are thrown into the mix. My prediction is that it won’t take long for them to make their mark 🙂 I had the pleasure of striking up a conversation with two students in the cafe, one studying Chemistry and the other English, and so was offered a first-hand insight into life as a Guildford student, although the establishment of a vet school was news to them. One interesting fact was that the Student Union is the largest in the country and is consistently ranked highly for the range of facilities and services offered. Mentoring and student support also appears to be a big focus, with some claiming that there could even be too much on offer, if that were possible. With Guildford only a short walk from the campus, there are obviously more social and cultural opportunities available than those offered on campus alone. Quite whether Guildford can match the cultural richness of most of the other vet school cities, such as Cambridge, is questionable and the university itself doesn’t have anywhere near the history or, dare I say it, perceived prestige as the more red-brick of it’s veterinary counterparts. As a predominantly affluent area, it didn’t come as a surprise to hear that two of the university’s big pub-crawls have been cancelled due to complaints from city residents about the noise. What, pray tell, will they make of AVS Sports Weekend then?! They wont know what’s hit them! But will this matter? Does this matter? Is it surely not more important that the vet course delivers the very best education and training whilst students have access to modern, affordable amenities such as health and fitness – they will as the sports complex is awesome, complete with a 50m pool and climbing walls – and, anyway, London is no more than a short train journey away so those wanting their culture fix will be able to sate their appetites and in doing so rub shoulders with RVC students (vet school rivalry anyone?).

Overall, I guess that my initial impressions are probably guided in large part by the fact that I am somewhat biased and loyal to my alma mater, a fine red-brick university with a very rich history and set in a beautiful and culturally deep city, so I will try and reserve judgement. All most aspiring vet students really care about, at the end of the day, is whether they get a place and there is employment at the end of their training. The arrival of the University of Surrey on the scene makes the chances of the former a little more favourable although it is still being debated how the latter will be affected. We watch this space.

Some facts about the new vet school:

  • Will be based at the University of Surrey’s Manor Park campus
  • The school’s ethos will be on ‘One Health,’ emphasising the links between animal and human health
  • The school’s key focuses are proposed to be veterinary pathology, livestock medicine, and research
  • The university has forged various partnerships with organisations including the VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate), Pirbright Institute, and local veterinary providers, including Westpoint Farm Vets, Liphook Equine Hospital, and Fitzpatrick Referrals
  • Students will have the opportunity to see practice and spend time studying overseas through the university’s participation in the University Global Partnership Network (UGPN), which is a trilateral agreement with North Carolina State University (USA) and the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  • The first intake in September 2014 will be just 25 students – tiny in comparison with the average vet school intake
  • Once all building work is complete, the proposed annual intake is for 100 vet students

Vet News – Badgers, Cushings & Low Carbon Farming

Vet NewsAnother month has passed and with the stressful task of finalising personal statements for the October 15th UCAS deadline for veterinary courses, our editors would have been forgiven for not finding the time in their hectic schedules to bring you their articles. However, it is testament to how committed they are that they pulled all the stops and so here, again, we have an installment of interesting vetty content for you exercise the grey matter on.

FARMING:

Pilot badger culls to go ahead

Emma Plowright (Vet News Farm Editor)

Badger, TBIt was recently announced that the Badger Trust has lost its appeal against DEFRA, meaning that the proposed culls will go ahead.

Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease which affects cattle. Official estimates suggest that an outbreak of TB on a farm may cost the farmer £12,000 and the tax payer £22,000.

Lord Krebs, who carried out the research upon which the decision was based, has described the culls as ‘crazy’.  Krebs’ work suggested that the spread of TB could be slowed over a nine-year period if 70% of the badgers in an area were eradicated. He believes that if the numbers were less than this however, this would no longer be true. In fact, the disturbance to the badger population could lead to increased spread of the disease. He has stated that, without knowing badger population numbers, there can be no way of knowing if 70% have been eradicated.  The cull has also been opposed by many animal rights groups.

DEFRA says that it will use previous studies and will be carrying out its own research in order to estimate badger populations. It expects that, if the culls are successful, a 16% decrease in Tb incidence may be seen in the target areas over the next nine years. Farmers in the worst affected areas have said that, for them, this reduction would be significant. In other areas of England, the reduction may be around 5%. The culling will be funded by farmers themselves although it is expected that other costs will be involved, for example police time spent controlling protests. A DEFRA spokesperson also stated that ‘no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too.’

Culling will be carried out by trained individuals in specific areas and will be closely controlled. A number of criteria must be met before a license is granted. For a 6 week period, the culls will be independently monitored and if it is decided that they are effective and humane, the culling will continue for a further four years.

A badger vaccination program is currently in place in Wales. Many groups are calling for a similar strategy to be put in place in England as an alternative to culling.

References:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19623931

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Pilot-cull-unacceptable-ndash-Defra-badger-expert/story-16871436-detail/story.html

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gqOA_Qun1ebaFP8AmVDi4zAR3vBA?docId=N0215891347875943180A

http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13692-bovinetb-guidance-ne.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-18440034

 

Lambs to reduce carbon footprints!

Hannah Johnstone (Vet News Farm Editor)

Planet Eart, Global WarmingAcross the UK the agricultural world has been set a target to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 11% (3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year) by the year of 2020. Low carbon farming can save money and increase income by responding to the needs of consumers. One sector needing to reduce carbon emissions is the sheep sector.

For most sheep farmers their goal is to produce more food to feed the ever growing population. Now they have an added extra to increase lamb production as well as reducing their emissions, they must improve their efficiency but at the same time ensure an increasing profit. The farmers are advised on how to reduce their carbon footprints by the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan with the help of EBLEX and DEFRA.

One example of a farmer trying to achieve this goal is Northumberland sheep farmer Duncan Nelless. His farm has 1,500 ewes, the farms carbon footprint is 8.3kg carbon dioxide per kg of lambs. Duncan’s farm’s carbon footprint is one of lowest when compared to the high of 15.3kg carbon dioxide per kg of lambs within the UK. The farms fast-finishing lambs mean they are able to create an efficient environment; lower the farms food cost and take advantage of early sheep markets.

Duncan Nelless’s farm-Thistleyhough has achieved a low carbon score by measuring their flock’s performance; they do this by the use of EIDs (electronic identification tag) to select their most efficient sheep.  In doing this they have been able to improve the finishing growth rate by more than 20%. Another key thing they have done is managing grazing of livestock; they use a 10 year rotation system, they believe their effective grassland management is proving to maximise the farm’s efficiency as it is acting as a carbon sink.

There are certain characteristics of a low carbon sheep unit some being that the ideal finishing weight is achieved as quickly and as early as possible, that the sheep are fed a high quality ration with high Metabolisable Energy density and also that reliance on purchase inputs is reduced where possible.

Low carbon farming is an aim for 2020; farming plays a huge part in greenhouse gas emission with a continuous growth of demand for products. Efficient and sustainable farming is going to be difficult to accomplish in order to meet the goals of the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan.

Reference:

http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/livestock/livestock-features/sheep-low-carbon-lamb-production/48828.article

 

EQUINE:

Equine Cushings Disease

Pippa Lyon (Vet News Equine Editor)

Equine Cushing’s disease or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction is the most common endocrine disorder in older horses. Because horses are now living longer Cushing’s is becoming more and more prevalent in horses today, with more that 15% of horses and ponies above 15 years being affected.

The disease occurs when an imbalance occurs in the hormones secreted from the pituitary gland which leads to an imbalance of other hormones in the body. These hormonal changes show as the clinical signs for the disease.

Although any breed of horse may develop Cushing’s disease, it is very common in horses that have reoccurring laminitis. I recent study shows that 80% of horses with laminitis may have Cushing’s disease.

The second most common symptom is Hirsutism, where the horse can grow a thick curly coat that does not completely shed in the summer.  The picture to the left shows an extreme case.

Other symptoms may include sweating, increased appetite and loss of condition. In some cases you can get abnormal fat distribution above they eye where normal horses would have a depression.

A blood test must be taken to diagnose Cushing’s disease which involves taking initial bloods, then injecting a steroid which will raise cortisol levels.  The next day, a second blood test is taken and if cortisol levels are still elevated, the horse is diagnosed with Cushing’s.

Unfortunately as of yet, there is no cure for Cushing’s disease, so treatment is based on controlling the symptoms although there is now medicine available to help normalise hormone secretion.

References:

Donaldson et al. “Evaluation of suspected pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in horses with laminitis”. JAVMA, Vol 224, No. 7, 1 April 2004

McGowan. “Diagnostic and Management Protocols for Equine Cushings Syndrome” In Practice, November/December 2003

Elephant Hills – Vet School experience

Jess Quinlan is currently studying veterinary science at Nottingham University and has also contributed, along with her dad, to previous editions of my book, Vet School. Jess recently spent some time out in Thailand working with elephants at the Elephant Hills centre, and here she offers her insight into this amazing experience.

 

elephant spraying water“We had been planning to undertake our 4 weeks of optional Animal Husbandry work experience at Elephant Hills, Thailand so a bit of a break from the norm. We had been really excited for ages about going but were also really worried. Our second year exams had been incredibly tough and even though we had worked as hard as we possibly could; we were still worried about the possibility of having re-sits in August.

9th July came and our results were due out at 10am. We were both terrified, not just for our own results but also for each other. I logged onto the university portal and although I couldn’t quite believe it at first, I had passed! Within two minutes I found out that Grace had also passed and that was it, we were going to Thailand!

We had only given ourselves two days to pack and get ready but before we knew it, we were on the plane and on our way into the middle of the jungle! When we arrived in Phuket, the transfer van picked us up and after five hours of travelling through extensive jungle, we had finally arrived!

Our first impression was stunned. We looked out over the restaurant to be faced with a vast expanse of trees and mountains, it was absolutely gorgeous! They gave us the day to settle in so we went to our tent and used the pool. In the evening, we were able to join the tourists. We watched the children from the local schools who showed us their traditional Thai dancing; followed by a cooking demonstration and dinner. Traditional Thai food for all (with a few chips for the kids)!

The next day we started the real work. We had to be up by 6…incredibly early even for an ex-lamber but the ten minute truck journey allowed us a chance to wake up a little! We arrived into the elephant camp a little stunned and with no idea what we were supposed to be doing. We soon discovered that in addition to this, nobody could speak English and so unsure as to what to do with ourselves, we picked up a broom from the corner and went to help some of the mahouts clean the area around their elephants, their condo.

After a few days, we had managed to develop a routine and also learn lots of words in Karen, the local language spoken by the mahouts and used only by members of the Karen hill tribe. We would help to clean the elephants’ condos in the morning and then we would walk the baby elephant through the jungle. This is probably one of the best things I have ever done in my life and definitely what I looked forward to every day. When we got back to the camp, we would chop up and prepare fruit for the tourists to feed to the elephants in the afternoon. Every two or three days, we would measure baby Haha in order for the managers of Elephant Hills to keep an eye on her weight progress. This was another favoured activity because this baby elephant loved to play! As soon as we got into the pen with her, she would chase us around and try to knock us over. When the tape measure was out she would grab it with her trunk, step on it or just take it off us all together. We had to measure her feet, heart girth, flank girth, elbow height and overall height. These measurements would be placed into a computer programme to give us an estimation of her weight, very important for tracking the health of a baby elephant. In the afternoon we would help the tourists who would come to the camp to feed and wash the elephants.

On our last day they also took us to the Elephant Hospital which is the only one that is present in the south of Thailand. It was there that we realised just how well looked after our elephants were. It was also really interesting to see some of the operations they were doing such as wound cleaning, as well as the elephant version of a cattle crush…it is huge!

We spent four weeks with the elephants and their mahouts and I can honestly say it is one of the best things I’ve ever done. We became really close with all of them and as we left, the head of the mahouts told us we’d been like their little sisters in their big jungle family.

After we had finished at Elephant Hills, we spent three weeks travelling around Thailand. It was amazing and I’m so glad I was able to travel and have fun whilst incorporating work from the Vet School at the same time. It is one of the reasons that I wanted to become a vet; to see and be able to get so close to so many amazing creatures and I would definitely recommend it to anybody who wanted to do something a little different for their Animal Husbandry EMS.”

 

For more information, please follow this link showing the newsletter the managers of Elephant Hills created about our visit.

http://www.elephant-hills.com/news.php