Tammy Shadbolt BSc Hons BVM&S MSc WAH MRCVS
Vet schools: Royal Veterinary College (London): PhD Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (current) and MSc Wild Animal Health (2013) Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (Edinburgh): BVM&S Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (2007) Liverpool Veterinary School (Liverpool): BSc Hons Veterinary Conservation Medicine (intercalation) (2005)
Career profile (or 101 things to do with a vet degree!):
When I arrived at Edinburgh vet school in 2001 I quickly realised I did not ‘fit’ the general student profile: none of my immediate family had been to university or followed scientific careers and I had not aspired to be a vet since I could walk! My motivation was simple. I was fascinated by animals and the entire natural world. Cats and dogs, rabbits and rhinos, woodlice and woodlands, I wanted to save the planet and all species that inhabited it. I aspired to be David Attenborough! An odd choice of university course perhaps yet every day since, I have valued my vet degree. It is the bedrock of a career that I adore.
A confident grasp of veterinary medicine and surgery is essential and experience cannot be attained in a hurry. I spent 4 years in my first general practice job learning from a wonderful boss before setting sail for Australia. There I tackled venous snake bites, worked a 1 in 2 night rota and learnt to patch up rodeo dogs and wombats. They say ‘magic happens’ outside of your comfort zone and whilst no day in practice is quite within it, joining the Worldwide Veterinary Service pushed me far beyond. Eyes opened to the extraordinary challenge of working with street animals in Botswana and Panama, I subsequently completed a certificate in NGO management, and set about working with charities in Fiji and South Africa.
The ‘niggle’ to help save the world and its wildlife did not subside. I had seized the chance to intercalate at Liverpool vet school in Veterinary Conservation Medicine as a student and I returned to academia to embark on the MSc in Wild Animal Health at the Royal Veterinary College. Somewhat to my surprise learning at postgraduate level was a completely different experience to my undergraduate years of struggle and strife, and failure to juggle work-party balance! Suddenly eager to impart new found ‘wisdom’ but wondering ‘how I got so old’, I threw myself wholeheartedly into a year’s post of fulltime vet school teaching and tutoring. I soon found that my students inspired me just as much as I could hope to do likewise for them!
Perhaps I am fortunate that each twist and turn in my career has signposted the next step. From conferences in Cape Town to anti-poaching rhino work, the opportunities have, and continue, to open up. I am now happily following a road marked ‘research’ and embracing the chance to tackle disease from ‘cell to species’. Juggling a PhD in Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, continuing to teach part time and work in both private and charity veterinary practice is challenging but there is still time for living the ‘London life’!
Every vet student is a perfectionist and the practicing veterinarian must remain professional and meticulous at all times. The science is learnt at university and the art understood through experience. Perhaps what is less appreciated however is the importance of holding onto whatever motivated you to fill in that vet school application in the first place. Do not lose your curiosity or your passion. Be determined but learn to adapt. Whichever way your career takes you stop and check: are you doing what you love and loving what you do? Are you enjoying the journey and remembering to admire the view?