Rebecca O’ Brien – who grew up in Cork City – is set to graduate as a vet from University College Dublin in 2021.
The 24-year-old – who does not hail from a farming background - has been passionate about animals from a tender age. “I was constantly watching something animal-related from Steve Irwin, Noel Fitzpatrick or shows like Ear to the Ground or Countrywide,” she told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“We always had dogs in the house, and I guess I liked the idea of being a voice for them and fixing them.”
“I selected UCD because it was close to family. It was my first CAO choice and I was extremely lucky to have been selected,” she added.
UCD's Veterinary Medicine students are required to complete 24 weeks of CEMS before graduation; this module is designed to provide candidates with real-life practical experience and to enhance their understanding of veterinary medicine.
Rebecca is currently gaining experience in a small animal veterinary hospital in Cork. “I am learning so much, watching plenty of surgeries and being carefully instructed/taught by the amazing nurses there.”
In addition to small animal practice, students are required to spend time in a large animal/mixed practice, an equine practice and a meat plant. “In September, I will begin fourth-year; next summer, I will hopefully pass my exams and enter my final year rotations!”
Rebecca admitted that despite her roots, her interest in large animal practice has grown over the past year. “I am really lucky that our large animal lecturers go above and beyond for students and encourage you regardless of your background,” Rebecca said.
“I follow Hazell Mullins, Richard Ryan and Gerard McGovern on Instagram; these vets have definitely inspired me to be more open-minded about my career path.”
‘Veterinary pushes you’
The 24-year-old said she would recommend this course to aspiring vets; however, she stressed that “it’s extremely hard work but very rewarding.”
“We do a lot of placement from equine to pigs and everything in between. Classes are small in comparison to other courses and there is so much support for students.”
Rebecca explained that lecturers and a student advisor are available to answer any queries and to provide assistance. “Veterinary pushes you; it pushes you to be your best.” She explained.
“I am so proud to be a member of the veterinary community. If veterinary is really for you, then do some work experience and research all alternative routes - don’t give up if it’s what you want.”
The vet student said that with every new climate report, the agricultural industry is under more scrutiny than ever. “However, farming is a way of life that’s been handed down through generations; it can be extremely tough yet rewarding.”
“I actually am vegan; I regularly get asked how I can be a vet (student) and vegan, like this is somehow contradictory but I don’t believe that is the case."
“At the heart of veganism, is animal rights/welfare and that is ultimately a huge part of being a vet. Do I think vegans can stop the world from drinking milk or eating beef? Do I want them to? No, not even close.”
She is of the opinion that there is a common ground for vets, farmers and vegans – and that is welfare.
“That’s what we should focus on instead of attacking someone’s way of life, their job, their lifestyle and how they provide for their families.”
“I am vegan purely by choice - not to declare war on an industry that contributes so much to society.”
Rebecca believes that regardless if one works in a large, mixed or a small animal practice, education is vital. “Educating people on why and/or how we do things to help people understand.”
“I think sometimes there is a lot of fear and misinformation out there and if we tackle that, then we can open up an informative discussion.”
“At the end of the day, I will be there to advocate for the animal and its welfare and well-being - veganism is just a belief/diet,” she added.
Rebecca is “very eager to contribute to veterinary medicine" and hopes to secure an internship or a well-supported first job when she graduates.
She would consider furthering her studies at some point in the future. “I think veterinary medicine is always changing and improving and I think it’s important to always be open to learning.”
“The dream would be to work as a mixed animal vet in Ireland. I’m willing to travel for experience, but I think my heart will always be in Ireland.”
“My ultimate goal is to be happy and healthy in my career. One day, I would like to be able to mentor the next generation of vets and, hopefully, keep some animals of my own,” she concluded.
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