“The Once and Future Veterinarian”

…. with apologies to T.H. White …..

A long time ago I read a lovely book, it’s just fiction but written in a very gentle and philosophical way. One passage in this book “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White has stayed with me and from time to time acts to give me courage to keep chasing those dreams.  I just love reading it, and next to the Desiderata it’s something that helps me through my darkest times:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

Based on our extremely diverse undergraduate training and education and the explosion of new knowledge I think about how Veterinarians can contribute to helping the world survive. We are set up to remain as lifelong learners. This is one reason I and my colleagues are so immersed in One Health/Veterinary Public Health now.

If you want to make a difference, as Veterinarians we agree there are opportunities to do this, so retaining a strong network, supporting and encouraging each other can achieve great things.

Here’s a thought:

It has been stated that 30% of all the people in the “Developing World” – whatever that means now – are entirely dependent upon animals for their survival. Given the massive and increasing unrest and tragic events currently unfolding in the Middle East and extending into western countries how can we best look at this from our own perspectives and do something about it? Here’s how I chose to try extending my own education and experience:

As a volunteer working for AusAid, through Australian Volunteers International I was thrilled to be able to be the first veterinarian sent to the south of Jordan for two and a half years from 2012 to 2014 in the role of Veterinary Adviser to the Oryx Conservation Project. The focus of foreign aid back in c2012 was on “Capacity Building”. I knew straight away that Capacity Building is a two-way concept and so, with my previous 20 years’ experience in the Middle East (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) I was as well-equipped as anyone here to fill this position. What an honour, what a privilege, what an absolute pleasure it all was. To live and work in Aqaba and Wadi Rum, to work every day with the local people there, to be accepted and welcomed into so many Bedouin homes and tents, to help these people cope with the issues surrounding the health and welfare of their animals, as well as to be involved with the ongoing community integration of their wild environment with their own survival was truly amazing. Of course as soon as they knew I was there my wildlife work was not the only thing I was asked to help with. But since wildlife and domestic animals are so closely associated, one affecting the other every day, it was an education for me to see goats, sheep, camels, horses, chickens as well as oryx, ibex, wolves, and to observe the wonderful creatures that shared these beautiful but harsh environments.

Baby Camel with presumed tick paralysisHyalomma ticks found on camelA baby camel, covered with ticks and showing signs of tick paralysis. We managed to save her.





The ticks that were attached to the little camel. Hyalomma dromedarii





How sad all of we volunteers were, the remaining 23 were mainly working in the north with humanitarian aid with the exception of one other who was an ecologist and working alongside me, when our government withdrew all foreign aid to the Middle East and closed our offices in Amman. I admit I still shake my head at the foolishness of this move, and wonder if “saving” $10 million to be used over 3 years was really worth it. Since I have heard that it costs about $5 million every week just to maintain our military presence in the region now.

Whether or not we like it, we have to agree that being a veterinarian is often more about people and communities than it is about individual animal health. This is why I feel strongly about the idea that veterinarians are in dire need of a higher profile across communities, we are perfectly placed to bridge the human/animal interface, especially now when there is so much more emphasis being placed on emerging diseases.

We must become engaged in more than just local animal health, we just need the time and to see these opportunities when they appear. This is part of what we hope to facilitate by establishing veterinarycareers.com.au






A generalist veterinarian with wide work experience, including mainstream general practice, management, university teaching, diagnostic services and volunteering in developing countries. I continually seek new ways to apply my training to help others set and achieve goals they didnt know existed, and all with a basic veterinary degree.