Equine dentistry - clinical and managerial aspirations

Kieran Rowley Equine vet

Despite the discouragement of careers advisers, at the age of 13 –having an affinity for animals and a passion for science – I realised I could pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to my local vet practice at weekends to observe small animal consultations and large animal visits. I did this for five years – every weekend and weekdays in the holidays – until I finished school. As a vet student I returned to this practice for extramural studies (EMS) on several occasions. It really opened my eyes to veterinary medicine and how to be part of a team. Going to the practice on the day I’d been accepted into vet school was a fantastic feeling.

In September 2007 I started at Liverpool vet school and, in what seemed the blink of an eye, I graduated in 2012.

A growing interest in veterinary medicine

My time at university and on EMS placements had shown me that my interests were in farm and equine practice. Not coming from a ‘horsey’ background at all, I was surprised by my growing interest in equine medicine and some of my fondest vet school memories are of the time I spent in the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital at Leahurst.

When starting out in practice, my goal was to work hard, find a niche for myself and make myself indispensable. One thing I did know was that ultimately I would like to own my own practice if possible.

My first job was in practice on the Staffordshire/Shropshire border. It was great fun and being in a dairy cattle area gave me plenty of large animal surgery to hone my skills, as well as a sizeable population of horses, which fulfilled my medical aspirations.

As is often the way, TB testing killed my passion for farm practice so I concentrated my efforts in the equine field. I embarked on the RCVS certificate in advanced veterinary practice with the aim of achieving a certificate in equine medicine.

Business aspect of equine practice

I was fortunate to be given exposure to the business aspect of equine practice, which interested me greatly and added another level to the job. However, after three years, I wanted to progress further with horses and also wanted to become a director in the business. I searched for a practice that was early in its development, somewhere I could become a fundamental part of the team and, most importantly, one that I wanted to be a part of. I moved to a purely equine practice in Buckinghamshire.

"As a director, my aspirations are to continue to grow our business and provide a fun and supportive environment for my employees"

Two-and-a-half years after starting the certificate I completed the synoptic exam and was awarded CertAVP (EM). Being a glutton for punishment, I went on and completed a second certificate in equine dentistry, adding CertAVP (ED) to my credentials in 2018. In late 2017, I was invited to acquire a share of the business. I completed the acquisition in April 2018 and become an equal equity shareholder and director.

Achieving work-life balance

Achieving a good work-life balance hasn’t been easy and, certainly when I was studying for the certificates, it definitely swayed in the favour of work. A Friday night trip to the pub and exercise kept me sane(ish) during this period. Having a family with a young child certainly gives you a reality check and helps equal the balance. Thankfully, I rarely miss bath and bed times.

Clinical and managerial hats

There are two aspects to my job, clinical and managerial. Both can be rewarding and challenging. I am happy I have continued my postgraduate education (I found it incredibly rewarding) and I am very happy to be a business owner.

I can’t pretend my career as a vet has been a bed of roses. There have been many times when I have been ready to throw in the towel, but with the support of my family, friends and colleagues, I persevered.

To be honest, there were aspects of being a vet that came as a surprise to me. Perhaps I was naive. Managing clients and their expectations was an eye opener. The phrase ‘sometimes you are treating the owner rather than the animal’ has rung true on more than one occasion.

As a director, my aspirations are to continue to grow our business and provide a fun and supportive environment for my employees.

When I became a director, I was keen to ensure that I could continue to follow my clinical aspirations. Thankfully I have the full support of my fellow directors in accomplishing this.

As a clinician, I want to continue my education in equine dentistry. I aim to begin a practice-based alternate track residency in equine dentistry in the near future. I will then be eligible to sit the European Veterinary Dental College exams, gain a diploma in equine dentistry and become a recognised specialist in the field.

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