Friday, August 2, 2013

Interview with Vet School's Susie Clohessy

Saving lives already: Dr Susie Clohessy, one of the stars of Vet School, with a kitten she rehomed.  "My housemates and I found it really hard to give him away".
If you're hooked on the ABC's show Vet School, you'll be pleased to know that the second episode screens tonight. SAT interviewed Vet School's Dr Susie Clohessy this week to get some behind-the-scenes insight.

What year were you in when the show was made, and where are you now?

I was in my final year of the vet course when the show was filmed. Since graduating I moved with two good school mates to Melbourne where I was lucky to land an amazing job as an emergency veterinarian in large multi clinic emergency veterinary hospital. The clinic has absolutely amazing facilities, I had phenomenal colleagues, a diverse case load, and importantly as a new graduate, support. I had to make a really hard choice though recently to move on from this role. I am thinking of doing some travel later in the year and see where the wind takes me.

Susie and her colleagues were the subject of "Vet School" during the fourth and fifth years of their studies.
What made you decide to become a vet - and are you still doing it for this or these reasons or has your motivation changed over time?

I always remember loving my family pets and generally having an interest and an affinity for animals. I remember the conscious thought however of wanting to be a vet was when my first dog became very sick. I was quite young at the time and I don't remember details but I remember how lovely the vet looking after her was and how compassionate she was with our family pet but also with us. Anyway I was really young but it struck a chord and I remember wanting to be a vet from that point. As I got older I realised I loved science based subjects at school particularly physiology which is obviously so much of a medical based degree and I love problem solving so it is a great career combining lots of great things. 

Can you tell us about any significant humans in your life and  how they have helped you through vet school?

Goodness me, so many! My family and friends were a massive part of getting me through vet school, particularly the final years. Fourth year is a lot of content and fifth year oodles of contact hours, most people wouldn't believe. Luckily I have such a great support network and friends that were pretty cool about me being MIA for periods at a time during semester. The veterinary degree is unlike most and I think until you know someone and see them battle through it you have no idea what it takes for a vet to get to graduation and some of the sacrifices that are made, particularly in the final years.

Being in fourth and fifth year is gruelling, but you had the added scrutiny of TV cameras. How did that affect you? 

Oh gosh, I realise I am not meant for TV! There was me on camera versus my rotation mates who seemed like naturals. Fifth year is just kind of nuts in general so it added some extra hilarity. It was a pretty fun addition to the years dynamic actually and it certainly has made for a memorable final year on top of everything else.

What was the highlight of being involved with the production?

I have some of the most hilarious stories being part of the production -  so many "Oh shivers, thats on camera" moments! I liked seeing what it takes to get something like a documentary made. Here we were studying to finish so we could work as vets and having people film it, just a bit surreal. I really liked getting to know the crew members, they were such interesting people and had worked on some cool projects - it always great hearing about someone else's career.

How has the veterinary degree changed you as a person?

Gosh in a million ways. I think the Murdoch veterinary course is an amazing course. Over the years with all the different things you do it develops your confidence in decision making and problem solving skills. It has a focus on client communication/empathy which is important, as so much of vet medicine is being able to empathise and chat with the owners in order to make a plan for the animals. 

I think I have always been a good communicator (perhaps sans TV cameras,we'll see) but heaps of facets of the course allow you to further develop these and as a vet is one of your biggest assets! Vet students are innately hard working, but there are significant man hours put into pursuing the course and it has certainly made me unafraid of hard work. I know if you put in the hard yards it will  pay off. I can't quite put my finger on exactly how it has changed me, but I know I have grown in more ways than one through doing the course at Murdoch and I certainly wouldn't change that!

Getting through those final years is one part of the journey. What is the next step for you and how well prepared do you think you are?

My next step.. I'm a little in limbo at the moment. I have just moved back to Perth and settling back in. I have absolutely no idea - as I said before since graduating I have had a blast working but I'm just going to see where the wind takes me.

Vet training tends to be highly demanding, full-on, all-encompassing. How do you wind down?

Hobbies and friends are so important. I play a bit of sport and since working started flying trapeze with a group of fun people and a few other bits and pieces. I also have friends who are not impartial to a vino or two! Not enough can be said in maintaining life balance. Make sure you try keep doing one or two of your favourite things, sport and travelling during semester breaks were mine.

Are there any good vet books, websites or resources you recommend?

VIN is a really good online resource for those odds and ends questions and weird drug doses. Nelson and Couto's Small AnimalInternal Medicine book is a good one and being in emergency (and my manager Gerry will love this) I read Silverstein and Hopper's Manual of Small AnimalEmergency and Critical Care. They were probably my two bibles in my first year out.

Finally, now that you have been through fourth and fifth year, what is your advice to third year vet students? 

Just have fun. A lot of people go through and will tell the years below them that its gruelling and hell. And certainly it will be some tough years of study but have fun. Vet school is full of amazing people - peers and supervisors - and also heaps of great opportunities. Don't sweat the small stuff and just have fun, you've done the hard yards getting in! I'd also make sure you get some practical experience before and during your degree as you'll be better off later having had exposure to a clinic environment. I also think its important to understand what the industry is like, which is why clinic exposure is a good idea and also make sure you ask lots of questions to the practice managers, vets and nurses while on prac so you have realistic expectations of what it is to be a vet - it is an incredibly rewarding profession, but there are certainly a few issues within the industry.

Episode 2 airs tonight on the ABC.