Q&A: Madeleine Campbell on specialising in equine reproduction
As part of a series of articles on veterinary specialisms, My Vet Future is talking to vets about their route to specialisation, with the aim of helping vets better understand how they can become specialists.
Name: Madeleine Campbell
Job title: RCVS and European Specialist in equine reproduction; European diplomate in animal welfare science, ethics and law
- 1989: BA in modern history and economics (2.1), University of Oxford
- 1996: Qualified as a veterinary surgeon (BVetMed) with honours, RVC
- 2003: PhD in equine reproduction, University of London
- 2003: Recognised as a diplomate and veterinary specialist in equine reproduction by the European College of Animal Reproduction (ECAR)
- 2006: Recognised as a veterinary specialist in equine reproduction by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
- 2012: MA in medical ethics and law, Keele University
- 2015: Recognised as a Diplomate in animal welfare science, ethics and law (AWSEL) by the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine (ECAWBM)
Did you have a career plan?
I have always followed my mother’s advice to just do what interests me. I was interested in horse breeding before I became a vet and was very fortunate to be studying for my vet degree at a time when Professors David Noakes and Gary England were teaching reproduction, which was inspirational.
How did you become a specialist?
After I graduated from the RVC, I spent a year in general practice and was then offered a chance to go back to the RVC to do a PhD in equine reproduction with Professor England. I undertook an alternative residency programme for the ECAR qualification in equine reproduction whilst undertaking my PhD. That enabled me to sit the ECAR exam and gain specialist status. I gained my RCVS specialist status in 2006.
I also set up my own specialist equine reproduction practice and became very involved in British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the BVA.
"Involve yourself in the field you want to specialise in as much as possible"
My interest in ethics came about as the result of being asked by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to join a group that provided expert advice on ways of protecting rare breeds in the event of an outbreak of exotic disease, alongside discussions about cloning.
That set me off on a path combining my clinical interest in equine reproduction, with a developing interest in ethical issues surrounding the use of assisted reproductive technologies in non-human mammals. I was lucky enough to get a Wellcome Trust postdoctoral fellowship to research that topic, and they also funded me to complete a MA in medical ethics and law at Keele University. I am also a diplomate of ECAWBM.
Can you describe the commitment involved?
I was lucky to be paid to do a PhD whilst I was studying for the ECAR exam, so the financial commitment was manageable. My PhD studies went alongside my clinical and research work in equine reproduction at the RVC, though it did inevitably involve a lot of evenings and weekends.
How do you maintain your specialist status?
There are a number of things that can be done to maintain specialist status in addition to clinical work: undertaking original research, providing specialist advice for other vets when requested, supervising undergraduate and graduate students, contributing to CPD provision, and writing articles are just some of the ways.
Academia or private practice?
Nowadays, I work primarily in academia. However, I think that the advice never to turn one’s back on either academia or private practice given to me at the very start of my career by Angus McKinnon, a world-leading specialist in equine reproduction, is very sound.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
With determination! It’s a non-negotiable priority. There’s more to life than work and engaging with the rest of life makes one a better and more effective vet.
What advice would you give to vets considering specialisation?
My biggest advice would be to involve yourself in the field you want to specialise in as much as possible – whether this is by engaging in CPD, learning from others or by making yourself available for collaboration and projects.