When Lisa trusted her (animal) instincts

Lisa Willcox used to doubt her ability to succeed in veterinary science but not any more.

Since I was a child I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian. Like most aspiring vets, my love of animals is what drew me to this career. However, I quickly learnt just how hard it was to be accepted into the veterinary medicine degree. I often doubted my ability to get the high grades needed for entry, and wondered if I could cope emotionally with performing tasks such as euthanasia, not to mention the gruelling study load required. As a profession, veterinarians have one of the highest rates of suicide. This alone would make most think twice about considering this career path.

Feeling unsure, I decided to embark on the Biomedical Science degree where I could follow my passion for helping others within the medical field. However, it wasn’t too long before I found myself back questioning a career in veterinary medicine. After I graduated, I made the decision to volunteer at the RSPCA hospital to gain more insight into being a veterinarian.

It was this experience that reignited my dream of being a vet.

Seaworld with the UQ Marine Veterinary Medicine special interest group

The day I received my acceptance letter into vet school will be a memory I will never forget. The excitement I felt then is the excitement I feel now as I near the end of this five year degree.

Veterinarians are not just veterinarians –they draw upon skills and knowledge used by GPs, dentists, radiologists, surgeons, nutritionists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and psychiatrists for animals. Being trained in such a wide range of medical disciplines combined with the multitude of species we can treat, are some of the amazing benefits of being a vet.

Whilst it has been an exciting journey so far, it has also been a difficult one; filled with many sacrifices, tears and sleepless nights.

Over the past few years I have worked hard to enhance my skills outside the university setting.

I’ve taken up both voluntary and paid employment as a veterinary nurse, participated in wildlife rehabilitation, and assisted with research into parvovirus prevention and intervention.

I was fortunate to be awarded two welfare awards whilst at the RSPCA, as well as travel to South Africa to work with wildlife such as lions, cheetahs, elephants, buffalo and sable.

This year my dedication and hard work were recognised when I was awarded the Australian Small Animal Veterinarians (ASAV) Student Scholarship.

This enabled me to attend the Federation of Asian Small Animal Veterinary Associations (FASAVA) Congress on the Gold Coast. The experience provided great educational benefits as well as the opportunity to network and socialise with others in the veterinary profession.

Cheetah breeding project at The Dell Cheetah Centre, South Africa  

Cheetah breeding project at The Dell Cheetah Centre, South Africa  

With more than 60 world-class international and national speakers, I found the seminars to be a great way of integrating theory from what I’d learnt over the past few years at university with real-world examples from the leaders in their fields.

Cheetah breeding project at The Dell Cheetah Centre, South Africa  

Cheetah breeding project at The Dell Cheetah Centre, South Africa  

Seminars presented in the imaging stream helped solidify my understanding of radiology and, as a bonus, further prepare me for my upcoming radiology exam at university.

Cobra, Khamai Reptile Park, South Africa

Cobra, Khamai Reptile Park, South Africa

I enjoyed the helpful flowcharts as well as the interactive sessions allowing attendees to use an app to access the radiographs of cases presented.

The proceedings of the congress were provided on USB which will prove an invaluable resource to refer back to in the future.

After a few days of exciting seminars, it was time to celebrate at the Gala Awards Dinner.

The night recognised the achievements and success of those in the veterinary industry and celebrated the ASAV’s 50th anniversary. The night was filled with amazing entertainment, fine food and great company.

As the congress came to a conclusion, I spent the next day unwinding at the beach opposite the venue - the perfect way to reflect on the jam-packed event.

I would encourage all veterinary students to get involved in these events. The knowledge you gain, friends you meet, and memories you make are second to none and I’m grateful to have been a part of this fantastic event.

Attending this congress reinforced my decision to become a veterinarian and provided the inspiration I need to make it through my final year before graduating as a vet.

Lisa Willcox

Bachelor of Veterinary Science student

University of Queensland