The following interview was conducted with:
Dr Carolyn O'Brien, BVSc(Hons) MVetClinStud FANZCVS
Registered Specialist in Feline Medicine
Melbourne Cat Referrals
1: What is your day job and what does it involve?
I have many jobs that take variable priority from week to week. I am a feline medicine specialist, doing clinical work on some days of the week (in my own practice, Lort Smith and The Cat Clinic, Hobart). I am finishing a PhD in mycobacterial diseases through the University of Melbourne and I am the senior tutor of the Feline Distance Education course and also part-time online learning consultant for the Centre for Veterinary Education, University of Sydney.
2: How did you come to work in this role?
My interest in feline medicine came about when I got my two Burmese cats (who are both now 19 years old). My interest in adult learning and professional development has evolved through my role as a Distance Education tutor. I also developed a passion for research via my mentor and Masters/residency supervisor, @Richard Malik.
3: What has been your best experiences as a vet?
Making a wider contribution to the profession as an educator/mentor for other vets in the field of feline medicine.
4: What has been your worst experience as a vet?
The feeling of helplessness when a cat has such advanced disease that palliation/euthanasia is the only viable option.
5: What gets you up in the morning?
6: What keeps you up at night?
My cats (one of them is deaf and likes to call out during the night!!)
7: Do you suffer from any chronic diseases that impact your work as a veterinarian and if so, how do you manage them?
8: Have there been any regrets in your life?
No. I'm now happy with the choices I've made. When I was younger I wished I had chosen to go into the medical profession, but I now realize that every profession has its problems/limitations and you've got to make the best of this situation you are in.
9: What have been your most proud moments?
The birth of my two children and passing my Fellowship exams.
Drs Andrea Harvey, Carolyn O'Brien, Susan Little and Cath Briscoe at the 2016 CVE Feline Conference, Melbourne.
10: What has been your hardest struggles?
Trying to complete my PhD with two children born 15 months apart!
11: What has been your most defining moment in life?
Becoming a parent has definitely made me a more resilient and empathetic person.
12: Who do you thank the most in your life?
13: If you had your time again, would you chose veterinary science as a career?
Yes, I think so. There are many things I wish were different, but I derive a huge amount of satisfaction, especially in my teaching role.
14: If you could go back five years and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
You don't have to get everything done at once.
15: Have there been any moments when you thought you didn't belong in the profession?
When I was a relatively new graduate I worked in a practice that allowed a lot of sexual discrimination towards myself and other younger female staff members by the clients and some members of the team. I found that a demoralizing experience.
16: What advice would you give to an undergraduate/new graduate just starting their career?
Try to find your own 'special interest' niche and be on the look-out for a great mentor.
17: Who or what inspired you to become a veterinarian?
I don't know, I can't remember a time when I didn't aspire to being a vet.
18: What is your pet peev about being a vet?
The perception by the public that we overcharge.
19: How does your religious beliefs (if any) equate with your veterinary work?
I am not religious.
20: If there was one thing you could imagine that would improve the veterinary profession, what is it?
A public awareness campaign towards the financial impact of owning a pet. I think many owners are simply unaware of the likely costs.