Careers & Education

Your animal, their priority

Your pet's harbinger of good health

Petre Williams-Raynor

Sunday, October 07, 2012    

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CATS or dogs, guinea pigs or hamsters; you name a member of the animal kingdom and Dr Iliya Hamiltion will likely not shy away from it.

In fact, she has for so long harboured an interest in and love for animals that when it came time to choose a career, she did not hestitate; veterinary medicine it was.

"My interest in veterinary medicine started at an early age. I was always an animal and nature lover and felt the need to care for and protect them. My daddy always said, 'Do what you love' so it was an easy decision for me to study veterinary medicine," she told Career & Education.

The 28-year-old has been a veterinarian for three years now, following her graduation, with honours, from the veterinary medicine programme at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine in Trinidad.

The Immaculate Conception High School graduate currently works with Animalcare Veterinary Hospital off Constant Spring Road in Kingston. Her duties there, Hamilton said, entails "preventative health care of healthy companion animals and medical treatment of sick animals, specialising in radiology and ultrasonography (imaging)".

Career & Education relies this week on this professional — the mother to one fluffy, four legged 'doghter' named Foxy, a two-year-old mix of Shih Tzu and Jack Russell Terrier — for insight into the world of the verterinarian.

Who is a veterinarian?

A veterinarian is a doctor who provides professional medical care to animals. We are trained to treat small animals (dogs, cats, pocket pets, for example, rabbits and guinea pigs), large animals (horses, cattle, pigs, and goats) and exotic species, such as birds and snakes.

What is the value of the work that you do?

Veterinary care is invaluable and is so much more than just pet care, as veterinarians have to be familiar with multiple species. It includes responsibilities in public health; biomedical research; ecosystem management; food animals and agricultural systems; performance animal medicine, for example, race horses; wildlife; exotic animals; and as most people are familiar with, care of companion animals.

What are the academic qualifications for entry into the field?

Entry requirements vary with the university chosen to pursue this course. Generally, good exam scores in maths, English and the sciences (biology, chemistry and physics) at secondary school level are a good start. I would strongly recommend that students visit the website of their school of interest to determine its entry requirements.

What other skills and competencies are required for entry into the field?

I'm not sure there are any required skills for entry, but it's always a good idea to volunteer your time with a veterinarian to make sure you are positive this is your ideal career choice.

What do you most enjoy about the work that you do?

Interacting with and caring for the animals and, especially, seeing them recover and go home happy.

What are the challenges that you face on the job?

Sometimes it can be difficult when pet owners don't realise and understand that prevention is really better than cure and that they should be proactive about the health care of their pets. If a proper health care programme is maintained, many animal diseases can be prevented.

How much can one earn as a veterinarian annually? Provide an estimate.

It's difficult to give one estimate since a vet can choose from so many different specialities. It varies a lot depending on your area of expertise and whether you work privately or with the government. Generally, a government position can range anywhere from $2 million to $5 million annually, while private businesses or corporate jobs usually start at around $1.2 million annually.

What sort of employment options are available to individuals trained as veterinarians?

There is a wide array of possbilities: companion animal care; biomedical research; agriculture and farm animal consulting; performance animal medicine; food safety and inspection services; veterinary epidemiology; public and environmental health; and veterinary pathology.

Why would you advise anyone to get into this line of work?

There are three reasons:

1. Once you have graduated, there are a number of career options to explore and to choose from.

2. Like human medicine, it's an ever-evolving profession, so you're encouraged to keep current and continue to grow academically.

3. It can be very fulfilling.

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