Working in equine dentistry
Why did you embark on the CertAVP focusing on equine dentistry?
I was asked by Paddy Dixon and Edinburgh University to be an examiner for the certificate's module in equine dental anatomy and physiology. Not having a RCVS certificate myself, and being a recent veterinary graduate, I decided to enrol, setting myself the target of being the first to obtain the new qualification of CertAVP (Equine Dentistry).
How did you get to where you are today?
I was unsuccessful in obtaining the required A level grades to get into vet school, so I undertook a BSc(Hons) in equine science, taking the opportunity to use a sandwich year to train in equine dentistry in the USA with vet and equine dentist Tom Johnson. I went on to finish my degree part time while practising dentistry. In 2001, I passed the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)/British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) equine dental technician's exam in its first year and became a founding member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT). Through equine dentistry and the BEVA/BVDA exam I met Professor Dixon who suggested I could apply to vet school as a mature student. I graduated from Edinburgh veterinary school in 2007, and spent time in the USA under Hilary Clayton at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Centre, Michigan State University. After graduating, I worked in mixed practice – with an equine bias – in St Andrews, before joining Pool House Equine Clinic, Staffordshire in 2009.
What does your job involve?
In addition to routine ambulatory first-opinion equine work and my share of the on-call rota, I run twice-weekly dental referral clinics for advanced and surgical dental cases. I also carry out second-opinion dental work for my colleagues at Pool House and for local equine dental technicians (EDTs).
What do you like about your job?
I really enjoy the variety: having worked solely as an EDT, the variety of dealing with advanced dental cases coupled with my routine equine work keeps me keen and motivated.
What do you not like?
As you can imagine, working in horses' mouths can be challenging. Your patience can be tried, especially when working on temperamental horses, though modern sedative protocols, constant rate infusion (CRI) and regional anaesthesia have improved things massively.
Tell us about your role as an examiner?
I was asked to become an examiner for the BEVA/BVDA/BAEDT exam by Henry Tremaine and BEVA after two periods of being an exam observer at the practical examination. Each candidate (EDT or vet) is continuously examined by two examiners (one BEVA examiner and one BAEDT examiner) and intermittently by an external BVDA examiner. Each candidate is marked according to a strict marking scheme and discussed at an examiners' meeting at the end of the day. It is a rigorous and comprehensive professional examination.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career?
Equine dentistry is an immensely rewarding career and one that I love. However, it requires a sound and thorough knowledge of equine anatomy and physiology, and is also, even using modern motorised equipment, physically demanding and I have had problems with both my shoulders.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
My godfather once told me not to have plans as a plan can be broken, but to have a strategy instead, as strategies are always flexible.
What was your proudest moment?
Graduating as a veterinary surgeon in Edinburgh and receiving my degree from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, with my mum watching.
Tell us something not many people know about you
I am severely dyslexic, which is something I found immensely frustrating during school and my early undergraduate education.