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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘A degree of sexism still exists within the veterinary profession’ – vet med student (24)

Advice from Veterinary Student

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Kate Rodgers in part two of this two-part segment as part of our Student Focus series. You can read part one via this link.

“There are probably two things I would say to people who are considering studying a veterinary medicine degree. Firstly, make sure that you do a lot of work experience before you apply.

Do even more than you are required to if you have the time, and try to expose yourself to a wide variety of practices, as well as large and small animals.

As the degree can be demanding, you have to love it, as there is no point in sticking something out for five years with gritted teeth.

By seeing lots of practice, you will be able to get a better understanding of the profession, make sure that it is definitely for you, and see the less talked about, not-so-fun parts of the job as well as the exciting parts.

Secondly, I would tell people to not let the well-known imposter syndrome get in their way (even though this is something I struggle with myself).

Once you get to university, it is very easy to start to compare yourself with everyone around you, which only leads to you not thinking you are good enough to be there.

My previous tutor told me that I needed to trust the applicant interview process because if your interviewer thought you were good enough to be there, then you have no reason to believe you are not.

Access routes

If it is definitely what you want to pursue, then do not give up because of what your grades say.

My school would often imply that if you did not get the grades at A-level, then your only option was to retake the year.

I had never even heard of access courses, so when I left school with no A-levels, I thought the only way for me to get any type of academic qualification was to apply to a foundation course, which is how I ended up studying politics for a year.

There are so many routes into university that are a vastly different style of teaching and learning, so do not be disheartened by A-levels.

Sometimes I wish that I had gone straight to university to study veterinary when I was 18 because I would have been qualified by now.

Realistically, however, I did not have any idea what I wanted to study back then, and I have done lots of different things and met lots of different people, which would never have happened had I not taken a break in between.

I do not think I have one specific reason why I want to be a vet, just a few different ones.

I like to be able to work outside, as I have never liked the idea of being stuck indoors for my job.

Also, I like talking and meeting new people, especially farmers, as you can always have a bit of craic.

I also love the idea of being able to work with my hands as well as my head, as veterinary presents you with so many opportunities. And, of course, I enjoy being around and working with animals.


After I graduate, I hope to move back to Northern Ireland with my partner and I plan on travelling more too.

I think I would like to go into a mixed practice but work mostly with farm animals as enjoy being outside too much to work full-time indoors, but equally, a few small animal cases in a warm consult room would probably be nice in the winter!

I will be 28 by the time I graduate, and I will not have ever had much of a break from education. But, I am quite looking forward to focusing on my life and career for a while without studying more.

The veterinary field can be very stressful to work in, and I do sometimes get frightened by the dropout rates of the job.

I hope that steps are made to ensure the well-being of veterinary staff and that more support and flexibility are provided.

Mental health is a huge issue in the industry, so I hope that the future brings more awareness of this and that adjustments are made to make an already stressful job a little easier.

It is great to see that there has been a shift from it being a previously male-dominated industry and that women now feel more encouraged to study veterinary.

I have never felt discouraged as a woman in the industry; however, I know that a degree of sexism still exists within the veterinary profession, as in most industries.

Ultimately, I would like to graduate and move back to Northern Ireland and work as a mixed vet. I would like a bit of land around my house and a few animals of my own.

Also, I want a big Hilux to drive around the countryside in! It is not a big fancy goal, but at the minute, that is all I think I would want to be content with.”

Follow Kate over on her Instagram page

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