Meet recent graduate Dr Rosemary McKean – a mum of two wonderful kids and wife to an exceptionally supportive husband.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Bachelor of Veterinary Science – CSU

Position: Veterinarian at Moorong St Veterinary Clinic, WAGGA WAGGA

Organisations (& Title, Year), Awards/ Acknowledgments:

* Redgate Poll Herefords Prize in Animal Production and Genetics, 2010
* Chapter of Veterinary Pharmacology – Award for excellence in veterinary pharmacology, 2011
* Australian Society for Parasitology Problem Based Learning Prize, 2013
* VetPrac Aesculap Academy Prize for Academic Merit, 2014
* Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association Prize 2014

Rosemary finished school the year Melbourne Uni changed from direct entry to having to complete a year of science first. Unfortunately she didn’t realise that at university, unlike at school, you were required to do a little work to achieve good grades. Subsequently she lined up for a second year of science having been accepted into UQ but making the mature adult decision that heading interstate for vet school was not worth giving up her horses for! Whilst she snuck closer to achieving a suitable academic score in her second year Rosemary just missed out so decided to move interstate with her future husband instead. They married one lovely Easter Sunday and had two children. Over the years Rosemary had done many jobs in various country towns predominantly in the media and marketing fields. Prior to starting vet science at CSU she was the marketing officer at the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs. Her previous media and marketing experience helped her in her veterinary career – skills such as strategic thinking, critical decision making and balancing the interests of more than one interest group to arrive at the best outcome for everyone are all directly applicable to every day veterinary life.

What does winning the Aesculap Academy Prize mean to you?

Winning the Aesculap Academy Prize means that I have the opportunity to improve my clinical skills right at the very start of my career. This increase in skills will benefit my clinical confidence, my patients and my employer.

I think the skills that are the most important early in my career are communication and basic clinical skills. You have to be able to talk to clients and gain their confidence so that even if you have no idea what is wrong with their animal you can convey to them that you will do everything you can to find an answer for them. You also need basic clinical and surgical skills so that you are able to competently perform routine procedures.

Tell us about your experiences during your placements

Placements were a brilliant way to learn. They come with many challenges – a new location every three weeks, different people, different systems, different clients and client expectations. However, I found them an excellent way to challenge and extend not only your academic skills but your interpersonal and organisational skills plus expand your veterinary horizons. I am very grateful that so many clinics are willing to have students and patiently explain things for the hundredth time.

The most challenging situation I came up against whilst on rotations was a little Shetland pony with acute laminitis, phenylbutasone induced colitis and hyperlipidaemia. Her owner was a very cute three year old girl who brought in a drawing of the pony’s friends to put on the stable wall so she didn’t get lonely. The pony was in serious trouble and after five days of around the clock intensive care was sadly euthanased. It was a case that really tugged at the heartstrings as well as causing severe sleep depravation.

On a lighter note, one afternoon when I had to go in to the equine centre to do checks I took the kids with me, as I didn’t have a babysitter. I left them in the computer room whilst I did the treatments and came back to squeals of hilarity. They had invented a new game, Mariocart Uni. Played by racing wheely chairs backwards around a table obstacle course with the fastest time the winner. The whiteboard had a scoreboard and drawings to match!

What advise would you give to other mothers wanting a new career?

Anything is possible. Once you decide to do something there is always a way to make it work. Whilst this involves a lot of compromises and there is a vital need for support, anything is possible once you set your mind to it.

What are the challenges a vet student faces on a daily basis?

Study life balance is really challenging and I am quite sure I didn’t get it right quite a lot of the time. I found I had to compromise a lot of the time and really did not get to allocate as much time to anything as I would have liked. The best way I found was to be very organised and to structure the day so that there was a set time for everything to happen. This worked well until I got to clinical rotations and then every three weeks there was a new location, different hours and different assessment requirements. We muddled on through and it all worked out ok – study got done, kids got played with but time for social things was seriously limited.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to waterski, play with my geriatric (29 yo) horse, walk my dogs, play with my kids and share a nice bottle of wine with my husband.

What made you want to become a vet?

I decided to become a vet when I was about three. I don’t exactly remember what prompted me to want to become a vet at that time but as I got older I liked the idea of helping animals and helping people.

Do you have an exam tips you could share with vet students?

Ensure you get a good understanding of the foundation subjects like physiology, anatomy and pathology because then in most instances you can reason your way through from first principles.

How do you cope with stress?

Meditation and relaxation, even for just five or ten minutes a day, are essential to calm and center myself.