Grzegorz Dymacz is a poultry vet who works with farmers in central European countries and the Middle East. He took a break while studying veterinary medicine at Wroclaw university to broaden his knowledge and experience as a student volunteer in the UK. The kindness and hospitality he was shown has left a lasting impression
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I ALWAYS wanted to be a vet. I didn't know exactly what area of the profession would be best for me, but I knew I wanted to have contact with farmers and work in large animal practice.
However, at the time, life was unsettled. I never thought that my career choice was wrong, but it was the middle of the 1980s and Poland had only recently escaped martial law. The country was still in deep economic crisis and nothing seemed to be getting better. Despite the political situation, I was studying veterinary medicine at the University of Wroclaw and I believed that one day I would make it through and be a professional vet.
Although I trusted myself and my commitment, one thing I learned through following the many subjects that were part of the course was that I knew I wanted to be the best that I could be. As we say in Poland, ‘practice makes progress’. That's it. I knew that being involved in farm practice would be hard work, involving long working hours, night calls, early calls, and I also knew that weekends off would be rare.
I decided to take a year's break from my studies and find a good veterinary surgery that would allow me to be a student volunteer. It was rarely possible to find such places in Poland so, in 1989, I decided to go abroad.
I chose to go to the UK because of the high standards of the veterinary profession and because I could speak English. Fortunately, Poland, although still behind the Iron Curtain at that time, was never isolated from Western countries. We always had access to English language courses, Western media and literature. Furthermore, as students, we were members of the International Veterinary Students' Association (IVSA), which had a branch in Wroclaw. I asked the IVSA committee for help in finding a veterinary surgery in the UK and they did.
‘It is nice to look back at the past with pride about who I am now and what I have achieved’
That's how I found myself at two veterinary practices, one located in Herefordshire and the other in Derbyshire. I did not expect to find such nice, polite people who were willing to help me, but right from the start, the circumstances were perfect and the people offered me hospitality and kindness. Furthermore, I was in well-organised, successful mixed practices. I have never done so many out-of-hours visits to farms dealing with calvings, and so on.
The owner of the surgery in Herefordshire was Francis Anthony who, at the time, was vice-president of the BVA. Thanks to him, I had access to all aspects of veterinary life. Not only did I assist him on farm visits and in consultations at the surgery, but we also went together to BVA Congress and visited a number of animal health companies.
The time I spent in the UK is beyond value. I made the most of learning all I could about field practice, I practised my ability to speak English, and I spent my time with well-organised, successful people who helped me to think optimistically about my professional future.
I obtained knowledge about the proper administration of a surgery, I learned how to deal with farmers and how to get my point of view across. Moreover, I became optimistic about my future and stopped being afraid of what might go wrong. Although I now work with poultry instead of ruminants – in Central European and Middle East countries – I owe a lot to my stay in the UK.
My practice is now considered to be a top poultry practice in the region, although it all started in 1993 with just me, my laptop and my car, working with farmers in Poland. Since then, I have completed a PhD and it is nice to look back at the past with pride about who I am now and what I have achieved. My son, Lukasz, is currently studying veterinary medicine at the University of Warsaw, so it is good to know that the next generation of my family will join our veterinary family.