Monday, December 29, 2014

Interview with Emergency and Critical Care specialist Shailen Jasani

Some people are doers – they seize the opportunity to make the world a bit better for everyone else, whether it’s providing resources to cope with the loss of a pet or helping veterinarians and vet students improve their skills.

UK veterinarian and emergency and critical care specialist Shailen Jasani is one such person. SAT discovered him via his series of podcasts provided through the Royal Veterinary College. We had to find out more.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do and how you got there?

I graduated from Cambridge University in 1999 and then spent 2-3 years in a small animal hospital. During that time I started to develop more of an interest in Emergency and Critical Care (ECC) - previously destined to be a surgeon. In 2002 I did a rotating small animal internship at the Royal Veterinary College which served to consolidate my interest in ECC. I then spent 3-4 years working in first opinion emergency practice in the UK before returning to the RVC to do a residency in ECC between 2006-2009 after which I became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

During my residency I wrote a book on small animal emergency medicine intended for vets and nurses in first opinion practice which was published in 2010. Between 2010-2013 I worked in the first opinion domain mostly during which time I was a trainer, mentor, supervisor and educator for vets and nurses in a number of first opinion emergency practices.

In February 2013 I returned to the RVC as an ECC Faculty member and left again in April 2014. At the moment I classify myself as an 'independent' ECC specialist as I work on a number of different projects all set in the context of figuring out how best to take my career forward in a way that allows me to 'help animals' in a more overt/different way to providing healthcare for 'owned' pets while hopefully still working as an ECC clinical specialist.

What motivated you to become a veterinarian?

In a nutshell, the desire to help animals. But in truth aged 13 when I decided to follow this path I anticipated working more with non-domesticated animals in a Zoology (not zoo - I have some views on zoos that I won't get into here) and protection capacity. But I wanted to get some medical training so I would be able to actually provide healthcare to them if needed. One thing led to another shall we say and here I am, 15 years graduated, a small animal ECC specialist. 

But as alluded to above, this year I am also starting to refocus on what I really want to be doing now to fulfill my own personal definitions of what 'helping animals' means and my own personal aspirations and ambitions in this regard.

Do you have any non-human companions? Can you tell us a bit about them?

Indeed. I must mention Ralph who was my previous cat and whose death inspired me to set up The RalphSite which is a non-profit pet loss/bereavement support resource that I personally manage and have funded personally throughout. [You can view the Ralph Site here].

At the moment I share my home with Max - warming my left foot with his head as I type this. He was a street dog in Greece who was take into a small private rescue centre there due I believe to concerns over his forelimb deformities (likely congenital).

He spent 3-4 years there repeatedly being overlooked due to his limbs and lameness. Sitting in the UK some time after Ralph's death I had decided to get a dog and had a look on the internet on a site called where they 'advertise' older animals in need of a home mostly in the UK.

Anyway, one thing led to another, and I agreed to home not just Max but also another dog that was not coping brilliantly in the rescue environment, Issi (Isidora). Due to pet passport regulations there was the mandatory 6 months delay during which time I paid for their upkeep and then had them flown over (British Airways no less!). Max stayed with me and I had Issi fostered to a carer that took great care of her while I paid for her food and healthcare (she had various medical issues too). Sadly after about 18 months Issi developed a soft tissue sarcoma and eventually I put her to sleep.

While I was waiting for the dogs to arrive I decided to foster for my local Cats Protection and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I ended up keeping one of my foster cats called Lucky (not by me!).

She had been removed along with several others from a house where the lady was hoarding cats. Lucky is super cool as well and thankfully Max has been completely fine with her from day one and vice versa. He had never before been in a home and minimal/no training but somehow has been very easy - I have literally done nothing to alter his behaviour or 'train' him. I was very lucky in that regard.

You can see a picture of them here.

How do you spend time together?

Nothing out of the ordinary I wouldn't say. Max has forelimb problems so I have to manage his exercise which places restrictions but I think we have a compromise. Since I left the RVC in April 2014 I have been working mostly from home which is awesome from the point of view of getting to spend time with Max and Lucky. He is frequently lying under my desk by my feet while I work and Lucky on the head rest of my desk chair. They do sleep on the bed at night (I know I know!) [Ed – no judgement from this end] and otherwise as I say, we just hang together.

How did you get involved in creating the RVC podcasts?

For quite some time I have been aware and supportive of Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAMed) in human medicine. Emergency medicine clinicians and Criticalists as well have been at the forefront of the human FOAM movement and I spend quite a lot of time learning about human ECC out of interest which is how I came across the FOAM concept - there is a lot of Australian contribution to FOAM in human medicine actually.

So in various ways I do what I can to provide veterinary FOAM (and have a vetFOAMed website that I set up and just try to add links to free online resources that I come across) and I am also a fan of audio podcasts for various reasons.

When I knew I was going back to the RVC in February 2013 I asked if they would be happy for me to set up this podcast series but on the proviso that it had to be free and they were so that was great. There is very little in the way of clinical veterinary podcasts - much more in human medicine - so I had no doubt they would be successful and they have been doing very well nationally (UK) and internationally with very little promotion beyond what I personally do on social media.

Although I am no longer at the RVC I said I would keep doing them given how well they seem to be doing - it makes me very happy especially when I hear from someone in a developing country with limited resources that gets some useful education for free. That was the ethos for setting them up.

I recently also set up an online project called Veterinary ECC Small Talk which has a website and a Facebook page. I have been slowly adding online training material as part of a World Veterinary Association project to provide free material to people in developing countries with a small charge for those in developed countries.

I have also now started doing a series of ECC-focused podcasts with a first opinion/general practice emphasis that you could make your readers aware of - that would be great. At the moment I am the sole presenter but I may start doing interviews at some point. We'll see.

How can people access these?

Both the podcast series can be accessed via iTunes or Stitcher Radio or via direct downloads from the respective websites. Links are as follows:

RVC Small Animal Clinical Podcasts:


Veterinary ECC Small Talk Podcasts:

If any of the audience could spare some time to rate and review the podcasts that would be very much appreciated as it helps others to find these free resources more easily in iTunes or Stitcher.

Thank you Shailen for giving us your time. You’re an inspiration.