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Ten-minute chat
  1. Jill Hubbard


Jill Hubbard is a small animal practitioner with a particular interest in ophthalmology, who works in Caernarfon. She has recently been appointed as an RCVS postgraduate dean.

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What made you become a postgraduate dean?

I have run a young graduate group in north Wales for some years, and feel strongly that older vets need to treat younger vets/new graduates with respect and give them help in reaching their full potential. We need to think through management so that youngsters know when they are on-call and not just have a rota issued three days before the relevant date. We need to be careful not to dump the TB testing and consultations on them and keep the more fun bits for ourselves. We must back them when they are struggling, either with a particular operation or if they need help with difficult clients. The postgraduate dean post, which involves advising and monitoring graduates during their Professional Development Phase, seemed a natural progression, as well as being something I could continue into retirement.

How did you get to where you are today?

I trained at the RVC in the days when there were 11 of us women in a year of 66. I came to Caernarfon as my first job; it was then 80 per cent large animal work. Lambing seasons were a major stress, and plenty was done ‘Herriot’-style. My husband then came to the area and we bought the practice when we were three years qualified. The practice has changed considerably and we gave up the farm work four years ago. We have moved the premises twice; the last time was 14 years ago, to our purpose-built clinic, which has five consulting rooms, two operating theatres and a large hydrotherapy pool.

What does your job involve?

I am a member of the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme panel, and have an ophthalmology certificate. I consider myself a ‘midway’ eye person. I don't have a phaco machine or electroretinogram, while being happy to do parotid duct transpositions or lens luxation surgery. But I do manage to offer a local service in the top left hand corner of Wales and I feel that is a useful role to fill. I'm not a specialist, but a general practitioner with a special interest (apparently a ‘GPSI’ in medical terminology).

What do you like about your job?

I really enjoy knowing my clients well, seeing a variety of cases, the fact that there are still new presentations and you never know what is going to walk through the door. I like the fact that the majority of the time we can follow our own cases through and enjoy discussing management, behaviour, medicine and feeding, in addition to the clinical presentation. Most of all I enjoy the wonderful people I work with.

What do you not like?

What I seriously don't like is having to explain again and again that I am not trying just to charge the maximum possible, but am trying to pay wages, overheads and earn a living.

What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?

There is nothing more varied, more interesting and with better job satisfaction, but don't constantly compare yourself with other professions, be realistic about being on-call and not earning huge amounts of money.

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What was your proudest moment?

A personal proud moment was when my 21-year-old daughter (who had been on a gap year in China) waited until the pedicab drivers tried to overcharge us 10 times for a trip, and then told them in Mandarin what the charge should be. As a vet, I am intensely proud when one of our youngsters passes an exam, does an operation particularly well, or when a client says what wonderful staff we have.

… and your most embarrassing?

The time I most wanted the earth to open and swallow me was the day I had taken some furniture in a horse trailer to our elder daughter in London. We were then on our way to collect a mattress in north London when the car died as we crossed Marylebone Road, with two lanes of traffic in each direction. The AA was wonderful!

Professionally: a dog had fallen 60 feet down a cliff. My colleague was doing some wonderful rescue work, but wanted an assessment of the retinas. I became a bit flustered when I couldn't find the eye at all, and was starting to wonder what injury had happened. My poor colleague was wondering how to point out to me that actually I was trying to part the lips of a facial wound above the eye. When I turned the lights on and looked again, there was indeed an eye – and I'm meant to be an ophthalmologist!

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