Ambassador / Caela

Ambassador Profile – Michaela Conroy, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK.

Hi, I’m Caela – Event Manager and Project Ambassador for IVSA’s Exotic and Wild Animals Community. I have been a part of The Expedition Project Ambassador team since 2021.

I have been working with The Expedition Project since 2021, helping with live streams and developing online courses with the help of Wildlife Vets like Dr. Peter Rogers, and fellow ambassadors from around the world.


WHEN DID I FIRST REALISE I WANTED TO BE A VET?

There hasn’t been one specific experience or one moment in which I suddenly knew I wanted to become a vet. This dream is rooted in my childhood and has been fostered with each animal experience, specifically, each vet-related experience I’ve had with my own animals growing up. Surrounded by an array of different animals, from dogs and cats to sheep and horses, set the stage for learning about animal care and my basis of animal-related knowledge. I was faced with certain opportunities that shaped my dream, such as ultra-sounding my cat’s heart with my vet when he threw a clot at age 7, nursing my sick lamb back to health at age 9 and treating my horses for colic throughout my teen years. Although, these experiences may sound daunting, they, ultimately, gave me a taste of a vet’s reality. These situations further pushed me toward vet school with the goal of giving a voice to the voiceless and to help make a difference in the world of veterinary medicine.

WHAT IS MY MOTIVATION TO BECOME A VET?

My motivation is my horse with a rare, progressive disease I couldn’t prevent; is my cat who was injured when hit by a car; is my dog with an aggressive nasal tumor we didn’t catch in time. These unfortunate experiences with my own animals continue to inspire me to want to investigate all the unknowns of veterinary medicine and to help catch conditions earlier on so I can give pets a longer life with their owners- one I wish I had with my own pets.

In relation to zoo and wildlife medicine, my motivation flashes back to my idol, Dr. Louis, dangling into a trailer with 600-pound blue wildebeests reaching to pull the dart out of one as it was waking up from sedation. My time helping conduct game captures of wildebeest, antelope species, etc. in South Africa set the tone for my love of wildlife medicine. I further fell in love with this niche in Portugal during a game capture and darting course as I had opportunities to blow-dart emus and helped relocate eland and fallow deer. The world of wildlife and zoo medicine is entirely challenging yet has a way of enticing you. Over the course of vet school, I’ve realized my interests especially hone in on conservation and becoming involved with saving species on the brink of extinction. I think to make such an impact on the natural world would give me the most satisfaction possible from my veterinary medicine career. I’ve still got a long way ahead of me but I’m looking forward to leaving my mark as a future vet.

MY BIGGEST TIP IF YOU WANT TO STUDY TO BECOME A VET IS…

You are often your own worst enemy and all you can do is your best! There will always be information you don’t know so it’s important to have patience with yourself. I’ve been told by vets over the years that it’s impossible to know everything vet-related, even after graduation. Many vets in the field have repeated, time and again, how it’s more than okay to admit you don’t know something because we never stop learning in this career and that’s the real beauty of it. The phrase, “phone a friend,” really comes in handy more than you’ll realize. At the end of the day, both clients and colleagues will be happier that you admit you didn’t have an answer and, instead, spent time researching the correct information to ensure accurate care is given. We all need to remind ourselves of this as there are already enough stressors within vet medicine but it’s unrealistic to think you’ll learn every possible detail by graduation. We must also remember to prioritize our mental wellbeing because we can’t be of help to anyone, human or animal, without first maintaining a healthy mental state.

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A VET IS…

Creating a balance between a healthy work and home life! Most of us who fall in love with veterinary medicine do it for the joys of the job- getting to help animals in need, creating those meaningful client relationships and feeling fulfillment at the end of the day that you’ve made an impact. However, there will always be days that leave you doubting yourself and may knock your confidence levels. It’s so important to remember not to let the challenges of the day follow you home at night and to try to let those worries go before you leave the clinic that day. Although the thrill and excitement of vet med can be quite intoxicating, we all must try to establish a life outside of work, as well, to prevent the unfortunate reality of burnout. Many young vets hit the ground running and give their all to their new jobs but sometimes give too much and push themselves past healthy boundaries. I think being aware of burnout and remembering to strike an equilibrium between your work life and your life outside of work will help vets (especially new grads) gain a healthier, more sustainable foothold in their careers

WHAT IS MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

As a vet student interested in many areas, I never have one answer to this question. If only considering domestic animals, horses hold a special place in my heart as I’ve been lucky enough to experience the wonderful partnership between a horse and rider. Wildlife-wise, the rhino is at the top of my list as I’m currently doing research on black rhino (Diceros bicornis), and I hope to become part of the great effort to save them from extinction. I also love giraffe as I think they are such odd yet beautiful creatures. Additionally, African wild dogs and humpback whales are among my other favorite animals. There truly cannot just be one favorite as there are just too many to choose from.

MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL RELATED STORY IS…

Perhaps, one of my most thrilling animal experiences occurred during a game drive in South Africa on my pre-vet program. Our game ranger had taken us into the corner of the reserve housed by lions at dusk, as that’s when the pride is most active during prime hunting time. While we were slowly driving by the pride watching the lions feed, we gained a single lioness’ attention. For some reason, she honed in on me, specifically, and began creeping closer to our safari rover. She was approaching much too close for comfort to our open-sided land rover when our game ranger had to bang on the side of the vehicle to try and scare her off. Simultaneously, we realized that a troublesome tire was beginning to lose air and would soon become entirely flat. In that moment, our guide hit the gas like never before and we flew out of the lion enclosure and into the safety that was the rest of the reserve. Naturally, the rest of us were enthralled with this true walk on the wild side of life and were even able to catch a gorgeous Africa sunset to top off the night (after our tire was changed). I fell in love with African wildlife and South Africa as a whole that day, vowing to someday return and be able to work with such wild creatures in the future.

MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL PHOTO I HAVE TAKEN IS…

Find out more about Caela here.

Contact Caela here

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