Q&A: Marco Duz on specialising in equine internal medicine
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: Marco Duz
Job Title: Clinical assistant professor in equine internal medicine, University of Nottingham
2004: Graduated in veterinary medicine from the University of Padova, Italy
2004: Three months completing research and equine clinical rotations at Texas A&M University, USA
2006: Equine rotating internship at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, California, USA
2007: Completed masters in veterinary medicine at the University of Glasgow
2008-2012: Residency in equine internal medicine, Weipers Centre Equine Hospital, University of Glasgow
2012-2015: PhD on equine NSAID toxicity and big data, University of Glasgow
2014: Became European recognised specialist in equine internal medicine
2014: Joined the University of Nottingham as clinical assistant professor in equine internal medicine
2018: Became a fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Did you have a career plan?
During my time at vet school, I was most interested in large animal medicine, particularly equine. For a period of time I was also keen on public health and food hygiene, although I think this may have been driven by the fact that I was worried about the lack of job prospects as an equine or farm vet in Italy. Despite this, I decided to pursue my interest in horses and sought further training in order to forge a career in equine internal medicine.
When did you decide that you wanted to specialise in equine internal medicine?
I pursued further training abroad as I thought this would open up the best opportunities for me. I was lucky enough to win a bursary to spend three months at Texas A&M University to do research and complete equine clinical rotations. Following this, I completed an equine rotating internship in California that really confirmed my longing to become a specialist in equine internal medicine. It was working on medical cases that I particularly enjoyed, especially being able to provide hands-on care and attention.
How long did it take to become a specialist?
After my internship in California and in order to further enrich my CV, I completed my master’s at the University of Glasgow, analysing exhaled breath condensate to investigate lower airway inflammation in horses. I did a short spell in first-opinion practice and then entered a four-year equine medicine residency, passing the specialist examination in 2014. In total, I took me around eight years to specialise.
Can you describe the commitment involved?
As an Italian from a middle-class background, the support of my family to travel the world for my education was invaluable and was never taken for granted. Living abroad has always been emotionally hard, particularly as my parents got older and knowing that my father was slowly losing his fight with cancer. It has been difficult not being in Italy to look after them, especially as I am an only child. However, my parents are very proud of my achievements and have always been supportive of my decisions.
"As cheesy as it may sound, what I love the most about teaching is that it constantly reminds me what it was like being a student"
Financially, completing the residency and PhD were manageable; however, looking back I realise that I was probably only paid the minimum hourly wage when accounting for all hours worked. I think that low pay in residencies is a real concern, especially as it prevents many vets from wanting to undergo further training, which in the long run could harm the profession.
What is required to retain your specialist status?
Maintaining specialist status requires me to work in my field at least 50% per cent of the time and to gather enough points over a five-year period. I achieve this in a number of ways, including attending congresses, giving presentations and authoring papers. This is easily achieved working in academia, but it can be much harder in practice where opportunities beyond clinical work can be scarce.
Why did you decide to work in academia?
I think specialists should have a strong drive in guiding research to make it clinically relevant and lead on educating the next generation. It is vital to encourage students to identify and pursue their dreams and achieve their best.
As cheesy as it may sound, what I love the most about teaching is that it constantly reminds me what it was like being a student and how important it is to recognise the challenges of that stage of one’s career.
"My job offers enough flexibility so I can often organise my work around my life with careful planning and organisation"
In academia I am constantly meeting and working with colleagues from completely different backgrounds - not only small and farm animal clinicians but also virologists, biologists and computer scientists. This really broadens my mind and stimulates my enthusiasm for life in general.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
Back in 2012 I had a true near-death experience, which, after many years focused almost 100 per cent on work, made me reflect how important my family is to me. I am really lucky that working at the University of Nottingham means that while my clinical, teaching and research loads are suitably balanced, I also have a very good work-life balance. My job offers enough flexibility so I can often organise my work around my life with careful planning and organisation, which means that neither my professional or personal life feels neglected. Having no out-of-hours duties within my current position means I can also spend every weekend with my wife, two hyperactive little children, our dog and even play golf.