Jennifer Hall is studying veterinary science at Nottingham; she took over as president of the Association of Veterinary Students during last week's AVS congress in Liverpool
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Why did you choose veterinary science?
If you had asked my family, a veterinary career would have been the least likely path they would have suggested for me. I was so frightened of dogs that I had to be peeled off the ceiling if one was in the room, and I could take or leave small furries. But, when I was 14, we moved to Devon and took on a house with land. The first animal to arrive was a goat (my mother had read that it would eat the brambles that had taken over most of the land). The goat turned out to be a ‘BOGOF’ and produced babies shortly after. She couldn't rear them, and I took it upon myself to hand-rear them. I found a love for the outdoors and the farming lifestyle, and was soon helping out on local farms at lambing time.
Having got B grades at A level, I wasn't accepted at vet school. I didn't want to retake, so I took up a place at Sutton Bonington to study animal science – mainly agricultural and animal nutrition, with a view to going into consultancy. Then, very conveniently, they built a vet school there, which was completed in 2006, the year I graduated. The course at Nottingham offered something that nowhere else could – the promise of practical-based teaching and an exciting new curriculum. On top of that, I knew the area well and I was happy here.
What will you do when you finish vet school?
My plan is to be a large animal practitioner in the south-west, but eventually I want to specialise in dairy cow nutrition, and maybe work alongside agricultural consultants. I would love to bring nutritionists, vets, agronomists and farming suppliers together within a farm consultancy company. I would also like to spend a season in Canada, working in a big dairy unit (and skiing at weekends!).
Why/how did you get involved with the AVS?
Nottingham hosted AVS congress in its first year, and I volunteered to be part of the committee. We had such fun organising it, and really put the event back on the map. I also attended a couple of AVS committee meetings, which sparked an interest in some of the issues being discussed. I became treasurer at the AGM; the rest is history.
What student issues are closest to your heart?
Mental health and welfare issues within our profesion (especially eating disorders in female vet students); financial problems experienced by vet students, which introduces extra stress; and developing an accessible database of EMS placement practices.
What do you hope to achieve in your year as president?
Encourage more male vet students to join the AVS committee; get the AVS EMS database up and running; continue campaigning for more funding; better financial support for vet students (especially fighting to stop the removal of the cap on tuition fees). Carry on promoting AVS as an association that represents vet students' views on important issues, not just social events! Make my mark by voicing the views of the up-and-coming vet generation.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
A head nurse once told me that my fear of dogs was obvious because I tried to be over-friendly with them. She told me to ignore them while I talked to the owner, ‘then get on with what you have to do without all the “who's a good boy” rubbish’ (she was a New Zealander). It worked and I no longer worry about handling dogs, and I haven't had any problems with them since.
What will be the biggest challenge of the next year?
Passing my fourth-year exams and starting my rotations, while keeping up with my AVS commitments; maintaining a social and sporting life, and doing them all well. It's not my style to only put half the effort into a job, so I can see a bit of a crazy year coming up, but I will take each day at a time.
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