Unreal Veterinary Careers – An Interview with Dr Samantha Phelan BVSc (Hons) – Veterinarian at Roper Gulf Regional Council

Introduction by Emma:

I met Dr Samantha Phelan around 10 years ago in Darwin in the hot, humid Northern Territory build-up. Memorably this kind and busy vet-mum welcomed me to their home for dinner amongst the rest of the mid-week scramble that all parents are well aware of!

We had a great night – drank wine, laughed, shared a traditional local dinner and dare I say the Canberran (me) sweltered in the NT night! At that time (and ever since) it struck me that there are people of amazing calibre tucked out of the limelight – quietly doing work the hard work that touches and improves so many lives and just getting on with the job. To that point in my career I was unaware of the need that existed in indigenous communities around animal management but ever since I have been fascinated by (and support where I can) the work of dog programs.

I have followed Samantha’s career and her publications (below) and at Veterinarycareers.com.au we are currently advertising a role to work alongside Sam for the Roper Gulf Council – so it is my very great pleasure to introduce you to Dr Samantha Phelan…’Welcome Sam – may I ask… What have been the major transitions in your career path?

Sam (A): The night before my graduation in 1994, I was offered a job with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to work on the cotton residue contamination of drought-affected cattle in the Narrabri region. This provided me with interesting insight into the Government sector, international trade relations and chemical residue work.  As we were taking fat samples from cattle, it also got me somewhat familiar with scalpels and needles drivers – as I wasn’t a natural surgeon, this was a valuable training ground.

In 1995, I took some time off and travelled to Gove in the Northern Territory to do my first shaky speys, mentored by a friend who was working there. During that long wet season, I read a PhD about Indigenous community dog health programs. I had always had an interest in public health in developing countries and had travelled extensively, but I had my own pets and could not travel for extended periods overseas easily. Once I read the PhD, I realised similar opportunities for public health work existed in remote Indigenous communities in Australia. I immediately knew I wanted to do that  work, but I needed sound clinical skills before I could be of real benefit in these extremely remote areas.

I returned to the Central Coast of NSW and I worked for two years in busy routine mixed practice at Ourimbah Vet Hospital. The high caseload and quality of the supervision meant that my clinical skills evolved rapidly.

Photo: Northern Territory Sunset 

I then travelled around Australia, and like many I had run out of money by Darwin.  So I worked in mixed practice and waited for the doors to open. I met and worked with Stephen Cutter, who was already doing remote community work.  I then tendered for work in the greater Katherine region. I ran my own business doing remote animal health programs from 1998 until 2003. During this time, I met my husband and passed the business on when it came time to have my first child.

I was a stay-at-home mum for 10 years as I raised my three daughters, home schooling them for much of it. In this time, I served on the AMRRIC board and collaborated with Environmental Health departments nationally to write the educational manual Dog Health Programs in Indigenous Communities, an Environmental Health Practitioners Guide. I also wrote Conducting Dog Health Programs, a Veterinary Guide for AMRRIC.

In 2012, I returned to locum work in Darwin and refreshed my clinical skills. When the offer to develop an in-house veterinary model for Roper Gulf Regional Council appeared in late 2016, I jumped at the chance. I see working within the Council has the potential to broaden the educational and environmental health roles of the position. This has the potential to create long-term change in both human and animal health in these regions and I am excited to further develop the program over the next few years.

Photo: Delivering dectomax sandwiches to dogs at Barunga. 

Sam and Javin the Animal Management Assistant in Barunga NT.

  1. What has inspired you throughout your career (and has it always been the same)?

A: The drive behind my work has always been the same: I love animals, I love people and their stories, and I love this big country of ours.

I love observing the human-animal bond. As a university student, I presented on pets as therapy, and to this day I see how good quality animal contact can improve people’s physical and mental health. Indigenous peoples in Australia have been subjected to a lot of trauma in regards to animal management, with large-scale forced dog culls being common place in the Northern Territory until 20 years ago. The work vets do in this field prevents the need for mass culling, has significantly reduced canines’ scabies prevalence and has a huge and beneficial effect on the community’s happiness. I love to be able to contribute to people’s overall health by making veterinary care accessible though the work we do.

  1. What has been a major highlight of your career?

A: I don’t really have a single career highlight. The daily interactions of my work create a series of small highlights – stories shared, laughter and the development of relationships and trust all create these highlights, whether that be in a remote community, at smoko by a cattle crush or in suburban practice.

Photo: Sam undertaking dog health checks in community

accompanied by Kaylene Runyu, Animal Management

Assistant and Linda Bradbury an AMRRIC Veterinary Volunteer.

  1. What advice would you provide a younger you?

A: The cynic in me says “Do medicine, it pays so much better!” But the other part of me says “Trust that if you hold your vision, whatever work you do is preparation for that vision, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.” Then, when the right door opens, you will recognise it and be ready to walk through it – and make sure you take time to smell the roses along the way.

  1. What do you see as future opportunities for the veterinary profession?

A: Increasing human population and climatic shifts are placing pressure on animals, both wild and farmed, globally. I think these factors will put the spotlight on the veterinary profession, in regard to species protection, feeding the human population and preventing transmission of emerging zoonotic diseases.  I believe as a profession we can provide a scientific bridge between animals, humans and the environment and thereby contribute positively to the conservation of this beautiful planet.

Emma: Thanks very much for your time Sam ~ we look forward to hearing future updates & if people are interested in this type of work (or know someone who is) please check out the Junior Veterinarian, Roper Gulf Regional Council role currently being advertised here.


Animal Disease Emergency Response Online Course Offered in September – Center for Food Security and Public Health

Open September 2017

Animal disease emergencies involving livestock and poultry diseases of high consequence or foreign origin will have serious economic consequences at the local, state and national level. The rapid detection and response needed will require the collaboration of trained responders.

The Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH) at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine will offer a web-based course, Animal Disease Emergencies: Understanding the Response, September 20-30, 2017.

The cost for the course is $100. To find out more and to register, visit: http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/ADE-Course/.

This awareness level, web-based course is designed for anyone who may be involved in an animal disease response, including veterinary and animal health responders, livestock or poultry industry groups, and producers. Traditional responders, such as emergency managers, law enforcement and fire department professionals can also benefit and learn the roles they may have during responses.
GlendaDvorak_WebDr. Glenda Dvorak, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, course instructor, Assistant Director, CFSPH, explains, “This course will help responders gain a better understanding of animal disease emergencies, the response organization, coordination, tasks and goals, which will help better prepare our nation for an effective and efficient response for these situations.”

About the Center for Food Security and Public Health

The Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH) is internationally recognized for providing educational materials and animal disease information. The CFSPH was established in 2002 through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase national and international preparedness for accidental or intentional introduction of diseases that threaten food production or public health. The CFSPH website (www.cfsph.iastate.edu) is the Number One result on Google searches for “animal disease information,” with more than 450,000 visits annually.

Now Hiring Veterinarians ~MPI – Ministry for Primary Industries. A New Zealand Government Department.

MPI vets make sure New Zealand’s food and animal products are of a high standard and that animal welfare is being looked after. Find out more about their work and how to join the team.


The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is looking for veterinarians from New Zealand and overseas who:

  • are either registered or eligible for registration with the Veterinary Council of NZ
  • have great people skills
  • are passionate about maintaining our high animal welfare and food standards.

Vets ensure high standards

A vet checking a cow on a farm with a stethoscope with help from a farmer
MPI vets check animals for health and welfare

MPI’s Verification Services makes sure New Zealand’s animal products meet New Zealand standards and the standards of the countries we’re exporting to. Our vets play a key role, working on the front line to ensure the welfare of animals, and that our food and animal products are safe and suitable.

As an MPI vet, you’ll talk to a range of people in your day-to-day work – so you’ll need to be able to translate your technical knowledge into everyday language and relate well with others.

Many career paths for MPI vets

MPI vets work in both rural and urban areas throughout New Zealand where meat, seafood and other animal products are processed and stored. As an MPI vet you might:

  • work with providers on-farm to ensure animal welfare is maintained
  • audit cold store, deer, fish, and chicken farm processing – meeting with facility managers, making sure animal welfare is protected, verifying their processes, and providing export certification
  • work on-site at processing facilities – conducting ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections, monitoring animal welfare compliance, reviewing post-mortem processes, certifying products for export, and working with on-site managers to ensure safe and efficient processes.

Our vets also:

  • certify food and animal products for export
  • verify and certify processing facilities for meat, seafood, game, and dairy
  • certify imported animal products at airports or seaports
  • monitor containment facilities of animals (like zoos) to ensure that they are free of biosecurity risk.

Other roles suitable for MPI vets include market access, policy, or biosecurity career pathways – all of which are open to you.

Want to become an MPI vet?

You’ll need:

  • a veterinary qualification that is eligible for registration with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand
  • a commitment to ensuring animal welfare requirements are met
  • computer literacy and familiarity with Microsoft software
  • a positive attitude and flexible approach to new challenges and ideas
  • good interpersonal skills
  • to value differences and respect alternative views
  • sound written and verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work and make decisions independently
  • a commitment to team work.

Register your interest

Sheep in a paddock
MPI vets work in both rural and urban New Zealand.

If you think you have the skills we’re looking for, you can register your interest and we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest opportunities.

Full training after you start

If you become an MPI vet, you’ll get formal training to help you do your job. You’ll spend 6 to 8 weeks in full-time technical training before you are warranted as an MPI vet.

Once you start work as an MPI vet you’ll also get:

  • ongoing, on-site practical training, mentoring and technical support
  • a comprehensive in-service training programme to develop your technical and management skills (including interpersonal and communication skills).


Not sure whether to make the move to New Zealand? Find out what it’s like, where to find support, and what your employment rights are.

Who to contact

If you have questions about becoming a vet, email rst@mpi.govt.nz

Source: Veterinarians | MPI – Ministry for Primary Industries. A New Zealand Government Department.

Final day to register for the AVPH webinar on Biosecurity and Smallholders

As I am on a hiatus from social media (well, Facebook to be more precise), it’s hard to get notices out of events that may be of interest.

However, it can’t help to give a final push via the Veterinary Careers news section

On the 18th of May, the AVPH are hosting a 1hr webinar on smallholders and biosecurity.

As a veterinarian who has a thing or two to say about surveillance and biosecurity, there are some genuine concerns about how we can engage with such producers/farmers/enthusiasts.

This webinar is part of a bigger planned output from AVPH and the AVA.

On the 9th of June, the AVPH will be hosting a 1-day workshop at the University of Melbourne that is designed for private practitioners who want to upskill their technical skills and knowledge of notifiable diseases with regards to smallholder farmers. This is a collaboration with DPI NSW, Agriculture Victoria, The Mackinnon Project (University of Melbourne), Charles Sturt University and 3M. Further details can be found on the AVA website.

DPI NSW have also launched a 2 hour, free e-learning webinar to provide Australian veterinarians with the foundational know-how of how biosecurity works within Australia as well as valuable resources. Further details are in the link below and requires registration on the DPI’s EMTrain website

Lots going on, but a fun time to get involved.

See you all tomorrow at the webinar!



International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance Vienna, Austria • IMED • November 4 – 7, 2016


Since its inception, IMED has been a summit that unifies our approach to pathogens in the broadest ecological context. Drawing together human and veterinary health specialists, IMED serves as a true One Health forum where those working in diverse specialties and diverse regions can meet, discuss, present and challenge one another with findings and new ideas. While pathogens emerge and mutate, our methodology for detection, surveillance, prevention, control, and treatment also continue to evolve. New approaches to vaccination and isolation the uses of novel data sources and genomics, novel laboratory methods, rapid point-of-care diagnostics, risk communication, political and societal responses to outbreaks have all seen innovation and change that will be explored at IMED 2016.

Target Audience: Healthcare professionals including physicians, and veterinarians, public health specialists, epidemiologists, research scientists, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, journalists, other interested persons.

Topics: Planned session topics include: • Disease Surveillance, Detection, Reporting and Outbreak Modeling • Ethics of New Methodologies of Disease Surveillance • Vectorborne and Zoonotic Diseases • Foodborne and Waterborne Infections • Infections Related to Travel and Migration of Humans and Animals • Animal Reservoirs for Emerging Pathogens • Agents of Bioterrorism/Biological Warfare • Laboratory Biosafety and Emerging Pathogen Research • Specific Disease Threats: Pandemic Influenza, Anthrax, C. difficile, Q fever, Rift Valley Fever, MERS, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Hemorrhagic Fevers, Bluetongue, Chikungunya, TSEs, Healthcare Associated Infections, and Others • Antimicrobial Resistance • Vaccines and Diagnostics for Emerging Diseases • Submitted Abstracts (Oral and Poster) Reg. No.: ATU10902102, commercial court Vienna FN 9129a

We (they) look forward to welcoming you in Vienna!

Source: http://imed.isid.org/