Unreal Veterinary Careers! – An interview with Dr Brian McErlean…

A champion of veterinarians, who demonstrates his commitment to and concern for the welfare of our colleagues, Brian McErlean has kindly consented to sharing some of his thoughts:

1. What are you working on at the moment?
At 61 years of age my semi-retirement life is stress free and varied which is quite different from clinical practice. Currently I am working on a month long trip to South Africa and Botswana with a colleague. We plan to spey dogs for 10 days in Maun on the Okavango Delta as part of a rabies control program run by Worldwide Veterinary Service. When I get back, rabid and malarial, I will be joining the board of a royalties company that administers trust funds for a large aboriginal mission in the Pilbara with 20,000 cattle. My other part time job is veterinary surgeon’s board inspector in WA which keeps me busy with the handcuffs for 2 months each year. I also will be on the speaking circuit educating veterinarians and students on mental health, suicide prevention and the benefits of positive psychology. The highlight each year is the trip to the City University of Hong Kong ( HK) where they get me to give an annual slow talk to veterinary practitioners as part of CVE. I am also a director in two hobby style investment companies which keeps my interest in economics alive and stimulates my brain in bright company. Voluntary work comes from being a Trustee of the AVA Benevolent Fund and working with some great veterinarians with great attitude.

2. What drives you?
I get bored and restless very easily and having hatched from an extrovert egg, the only path is way out there. I guess anyone that has gone through veterinary college, run a busy practice and reared a family is a driven person or resides in an asylum. Variety keeps me going. I play golf badly every Friday, something that saved my sanity when in practice, and have just taken up oil painting as the latest hobby. Failure is a speedbump and I just keep going.

3. What have been the major transitions in your path?
I left Ireland on a one way ticket to California in 1981 and looked at job opportunities in the US and Canada before arriving in Sydney and buying a $400 car. It survived the trip to Perth with the help of a school pal who knew what was under the bonnet. There were no jobs in Perth and I started in the North West and eventually ended up in Bullsbrook outside Perth. It is best known for its RAAF air force base and night flying which shook the kennels and the patients but kept the drugs in suspension. The next major transition was going from 2 years of working on my own to growing a great practice with the help of many talented partners and having a life. Fatherhood and the advent of P platers was also a transition for the best and my two boys have left home and are happy and well adjusted. The next transition was giving up practice at 56 and walking away to unemployment initially but life has now given me a stress free zone full of interesting work. I hope the final transition is some way off and that my ashes are used wisely by my wife.

4. What goals are you working towards?
Happiness and success in everything I apply myself to. It is also critical to stay healthy in mind and body in the last trimester of life. My central goal is to be an artist as I think that is the best way to go out. Van Gogh sold one painting in his life time and departed insane so the prognosis is guarded.

5. What advice would you provide a younger you?

  • Don’t worry about things you cannot change including babies nappies.
  • I worried too much about veterinary things that I could not change e.g. the Rottweiler with parvovirus on a drip in the veterinary hospital at night, in the days before emergency hospitals. Yes there were occasional deaths in custody in ancient times and lots of explaining to do.
  • The energy devoted to worrying should be diverted to problem solving.
  • Nothing succeeds like persistence but try and find jobs and hobbies you really like doing. If you hate your job leave it and the sooner you do, the happier you will be.
  • The biggest decision in life is who you marry and not your career or wealth and…….. she is always right. I tell my boys this.
  • Be nice to everyone and praise their good deeds and doors will open. Always talk to other people you meet about themselves!
  • If you want to make money, buy an index fund, leave it there for 40 years and only spend the dividends!
  • You can’t do life on your own no matter how smart you think you are.


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