Growing up surrounded by the hospitality industry, veterinary medicine may be viewed by some as an atypical career choice for 24-year-old, Ciara Barrett.
The Clonakilty, West Cork native does not hail from a farming background, but has been an equine enthusiast from a tender age.
“Horses have always been a huge part of my life. Growing up with ponies, I enjoyed pony club and started show jumping,” she explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.
“Right through school and college, I have worked as part of the great team here at Dunmore House, Clonakilty, a fourth-generation family-owned and managed hotel.”
“My parents work hard to continue to bring our family business from strength-to-strength and I think this has instilled an excellent work ethic in me.”
Through her experiences of having her own horses, and seeing the work of their vet, she became more interested in the veterinary field.
“It may sound cliché, but for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a vet. The scientific basis of veterinary medicine and the importance of animal welfare informed my decision to pursue it as a career.”
Ciara completed her Leaving Certificate in 2015, but was not offered a place in UCD’s veterinary medicine course and accepted her second choice, animal science – equine at the university.
She completed the first year of this programme and re-applied the following year with the hope of securing a place in veterinary medicine.
“Thankfully, due to a change in the points requirement, I was successful. Even though this added an additional year to my study path, it did not deter me from continuing to work towards my ultimate goal.”
Placement and COVID-19
Throughout her studies, Ciara has gained experience at a range of clinics and hospitals including her local practice, Faxbridge Veterinary Hospital.
Her placements have been predominantly in equine, in Ireland and the US. “During my time spent in Wellington, Florida, I enjoyed seeing the importance of veterinary medicine at the highest level of show jumping sport.”
“The highlight for me to date has been applying what I have learned during my studies to clinical practice. It is rewarding to see everything coming together as I begin my final year.”
“From the outset, I have enjoyed all elements of the course, even if challenging at times! I am thankful that there is a great sense of community within the veterinary college in UCD.”
“I have been very fortunate to make lifelong friends during my studies to date. We will hopefully continue our friendships as we venture into life after college and the working world.” added the vet traditional music group member.
In hindsight, she believes that COVID -19 almost put a pause on life - her studies changed from the library in UCD to her bedroom in West Cork and her showjumping schedule was put on hold, with most events cancelled.
“However, this pause allowed me to spend memorable time with those closest to me. Even though times were very different, I completed my fourth-year exams online and continued to maintain our horse’s fitness for their return to the circuit.”
Women in veterinary
For the most part, Ciara believes there is equality among those in the veterinary profession. “Throughout my time in UCD, we have all been given equal opportunity.”
“However, some people assume that females are more suited to small animal practice. I believe that each individual can choose their career path because it is their choice, and of interest to them, no matter what their circumstance.”
“I think as a female entering the veterinary profession, I need to prove myself more than my male counterparts. It is crucial not to take others doubting you to heart - self-belief is essential!” she admitted.
Set to graduate in June 2021, the Cork native plans to begin practicing in Ireland with intentions to explore the option of undertaking an equine internship, in Ireland or abroad and taking time to travel.
“The veterinary profession is committed to lifelong learning, as the field is constantly evolving. I would advise those considering studying veterinary medicine to take time before beginning your studies to experience veterinary practice, to ensure it is the course for you.”
“Determination and hard work are crucial in this field - from obtaining a place, to completing the five years of dedicated study, passing exams and gaining necessary experience on placement.”
“Always remember there are other avenues to secure a place in veterinary medicine. I completed the entrance exams to study veterinary outside of Ireland, which is a great back-up plan. Graduate entry to the course is also an option.”
“I look forward to furthering my studies in the future, dependent on my career path and progression,” Ciara concluded.
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