Friday, December 6, 2013

Distance Education: A perspective from Dr Lisa Bennett

Dr Lisa Bennett
As 2013 comes to an end you might be making plans for your continuing education in 2014. SAT had the opportunity to interview Dr Lisa Bennett, an Aussie veterinarian who recently returned home after working in Hong Kong. She completed a distance education program in feline medicine through the Centre for Veterinary Education and was happy to discuss her experiences.

When did you graduate and what have you been up to?

I graduated from Sydney Uni in 1996 and worked at Castle Hill vet hospital and Paddington cat hospital for several years before moving to Hong Kong. I lived and worked in Hong Kong for 10 years in a cat hospital called Nine Lives. Our family recently moved back to Sydney after 10 years in Hong Kong and are all very happy to be home.

What was the case load like?

This was a very busy cat hospital where we saw a great variety of interesting cases both medical and surgical. We were the only cat hospital in Hong Kong for most of that 10 year period so clients travelled great distances to come to Nine Lives for our advice and consultation and they expected us to have a higher level of knowledge about feline medicine. It was for this reason I decided to do the Feline medicine distance education course.

Why did you choose that course?

The Feline medicine course consists of 10 modules covering the vast majority of all feline related conditions. The modules include dermatology, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory disease, gastroenterology, urinary tract disease, neurology, infectious disease, hematology and oncology. The core reading material is provided in each module and there are also many relevant papers included at the end for further interest. Case studies are given every month and marked with great advice and personal experience shared by your tutor.

This is Oliver - "my beautiful burmese that studied with me throughout the whole course, that I lost to renal failure".
How much work was involved?

This program is a fantastic way to deepen your knowledge of feline medicine or also a great way to shake out the cobwebs and start critically thinking again. Like anything, the more you put into the course in terms of reading and research, discussions and case studies, the more you will get out of it but that should not stop someone who is short of time doing it.

One of the reasons I decided to do the course was that I had taken significant periods of time off while having my three children and I felt that it was time to get rid of my "baby brain" and start the neurons firing again. The course was just a great way to motivate me to do the extra reading and research that you keep promising yourself you will do tomorrow! So for any of the mums or dads out there who are feeling nervous about going back to practise after having time off for their kids, any of the DE courses would be a fabulous way to regain your confidence and know that you are up to date with current material.

Dr Lisa Bennett operating on her own cat.

How did you integrate study and work?

It is always a challenge to juggle day to day life, work, study and a family so I waited until my youngest was at school so that I could dedicate the time I felt I wanted to put into the course. I made sure I carried the relevant section I was reading at the time everywhere I went so that I could always utilize my time effectively - it is amazing how much time you spend in queues, waiting outside school, in doctors surgeries etc.

I was also lucky because living in Hong Kong enables full time help so this did give me a significant advantage!

One of the great things about extended courses is that you tend to develop a network of peers. Did you find that was the case?

What was surgically removed.
One of the fantastic things about the DE courses is the online sharing of cases - it opens up a huge network of differing opinions and discussions involving all the participants and the tutors over very relevant day to day situations. The group meetings that occur twice in the year are fantastic fun and everyone loves getting together and getting to know each other. You end up developing a great rapport with your tutor and their support through the year is very rewarding. Sadly I lost Oliver, my beautiful burmese to acute renal failure 1 week before the feline membership exams and my tutor was emailing several times a day to see how things were going, offering advice and then comfort when things went very badly. The encouragement he showed me during those very difficult days meant so much to me and helped me stay focused on completing the exams.

Do you think courses like this are good preparation for memberships?
I would recommend striving to do the relevant membership exams in whichever DE course you do. The course provides an excellent framework from which to base your study and the case studies you do throughout the program result in you being very prepared for the case study sections in the exams. Aiming for the exams at the end also gave me the extra commitment and determination to put that little bit extra into the course.

Completing the course and the exams was a great personal challenge but the best things you gain are the fantastic network of friends around the globe and more enjoyment it creates in your day to day life as vets. I would recommend this course to everyone.