Industry offers a range of opportunities for vets who wish to pursue an alternative to practice, including opportunities in research and development
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VETS have been working in industry since the 1950s. Today's veterinarians are educated to protect the health of animals and people. They not only work hard to address the health needs of animals; they also play a critical role in environmental protection, food safety, animal welfare and public health. There are various roles in industry for those with veterinary training, including sales, technical services, product development and marketing.
Other veterinarians take advantage of their underlying knowledge of comparative physiology, pathology and medicine to work in the research functions of human pharmaceutical companies
And some, like Jane, who works for AstraZeneca, are involved in new product development – planning, running and supervising trials to investigate the efficiency and safety of new products. Jane is currently working in reproductive toxicology, but has been working as a veterinarian in industry for over 18 years. She feels that the first, and biggest, difference between working as a veterinarian in practice and working in industry is the importance of teamwork and group contribution.
‘The needs of others may well outweigh the needs of yourself. You cannot have dictators, you cannot have prima donnas – from the technician who's feeding the animals, to the scientist who is directing a multinational piece of work, we all have to work together.’
‘The output from my work – and I shouldn't use “my” because it's always a team effort – might be an experiment, or it might be a major scientific project that's going to lead to a scientific paper that somebody on the team is invited to speak about at an international conference.’
Like many veterinarians working in industry, Jane is excited by new research. ‘When a report ends up on my desk, whether it was commissioned from another company or was delivered by my team, I feel real excitement to see what the results of the experiment were, and what we need to do next.’
‘Within my current job, I am given the opportunity to interact with people who could be described as leaders within several scientific fields. You get to go to international conferences. You get to meet scientists from other countries and from universities. There are opportunities to interact with government-based scientists who are setting international policy. Some of those interactions are the most challenging but also the most rewarding – because, at the end of the day, if your scientific opinion and the arguments you bring to bear result in a change in international policy that you feel is of benefit to animal welfare or humanity, that is a fabulous feeling.’
Industry provides a challenging environment. There is constant change and development. Jane says, ‘Of the key competencies the industry looks for in veterinary-trained professionals, inevitably, sound underlying veterinary and scientific knowledge is the most important. Linked to that, I think industry jobs suit people who have inquiring minds, and who are prepared to continually revisit the decisions they make, based on the new evidence that becomes available. You're always learning about a new issue. So focus on delivering high-quality science that is at the cutting edge of its field: that way you will develop expertise and opinions that matter.’
Jane is proud of her current reproductive toxicology work. ‘Animal testing is vital to the pharmaceutical industry as we develop the information that goes into the pregnancy label of every single AstraZeneca medicine. You cannot develop a medicine without generating information on what to tell a pregnant woman. A pregnant woman with a serious bacterial infection needs antibiotics. She and her GP should have the ability to read a label and determine whether an antibiotic is liable to hurt her baby. And it's not OK simply to have a label that says a medicine is dangerous in pregnancy, because if you say a medicine is more dangerous than it is and the woman takes the medicine and then discovers she is pregnant, she may choose to have an abortion. All because a label suggested a product was more dangerous than it was. I am very proud of doing the best we can to inform doctors and patients about the safety of our medicines.’
‘If I had to give one piece of advice to someone who was training to be a vet on why they should consider a job in industry, I would encourage them to be open-minded about how the knowledge and judgement that their veterinary training provides can benefit industry and society to a much greater extent that it can in veterinary practice.’
▪ This article was provided by AstraZeneca. More information is available at www.astrazeneca.com
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