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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
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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‘I was 17 when I decided I wanted to become a vet’ – student (26)

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Maeva Rouyer (26) in this week’s Student Focus series, in the first of her two-part interview.

“I am Maeva Rouyer, a French veterinary student, and in this article, I will explain to you my road to becoming a veterinarian.

I lived a good part of my childhood in Marolles-en-Brie in the Paris region (France) at the gates of the domain of Grosbois.

It is an area of 430 hectares intended for trotting racehorses. Today, I reside temporarily in Slovakia in Kosice, where I am studying at the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy (UVLF).

As my father is a chef and my mother is a sports and horse betting executive of the PMU, I really do not come from a farming family.

However, my mother and the PMU had a good relationship with the domain of Grosbois. She told me one day that the first time I rode a horse was a racing trotter in this domain.

When I was 9-years-old, my parents organised a horse riding lesson for me, and my passion for horses has never left me since that day.

This is probably why I decided to do a Baccalaureate, which is the equivalent of the leaving Certificate, alternating between work in a stable as a rider and caretaker and lessons at the Agricultural School of SEES.

It was also my first experience of dairy and poultry farming. I realised during my work at the stable, maybe when I was around 17-years-old that what I loved above all was the welfare of animals, so, I decided I wanted to become a veterinarian.

Studying veterinary medicine

I am studying General Veterinary Medicine (Post-BSc) at the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Kosice (Slovakia), having enrolled in 2019.

After some hard years of studying for a scientific bachelor in biology and chemistry and the first year of an honours bachelor in animal biology to catch up with the scientific level I needed, I finally joined in 2019 and hope to graduate as a vet in 2024, if all goes to plan.

I chose this university for many reasons. Firstly, because it was the only school abroad that allowed direct access to third year with my bachelor degree.

Secondly, it is accredited by the European College, and that allows me to work in different European countries after graduation.

Then, it was financially accessible for me with a student loan. Finally, it is one of the few veterinary schools that allows access without having the scientific baccalaureate, which I do not have.

Internships

Before but also during my veterinary studies, I tried to carry out many internships in different fields, but more particularly in the equine field.

I had an experience in the wildlife area at the Veterinary School of Alfort situated in France. The work consisted mainly of feeding animals, animal health and husbandry, and rehabilitating them before releasing them into the wild.

It was a great experience for me to understand the impact of the human on wildlife.

Another great experience was in a clinic for pet and livestock animals. I learned a lot of things there, with the possibility to perform some surgery like the bovine abomasal surgery, the castrations of dogs and cats, or the removal of a subcutaneous tumour.

To discover different ways of working and apply what I learned in the equine veterinary field, I did externships in equine clinics in Belgium at EQUITOM, in Canada at St Hyacinthe and also in different clinics in France.

I also have two other externships planned this year, one in France and one in Canada.

During these externships, I was mainly responsible for monitoring patients and administering treatment, along with follow-up of consultations and participation in diagnostic procedures such as medical imaging are part of the tasks.

Milestones

Two things have particularly marked my veterinary studies to date.

The first but also the most important for me is my diploma thesis. The subject of my thesis is ‘Traumatic injuries involving tendons and ligaments of the distal limbs in horses’, and my tutor, Dr Filip Kol’vek, gave me the chance to practice and follow cases at the university’s equine clinic every week.

This goes from one to several days a week. We can see that this man is passionate and likes to pass on his knowledge, and I am truly grateful to have such a tutor.

When I started working at the equine clinic, there was a volunteer programme for Slovak students run by a young veterinarian, Dr Veronika Kostolániová, who is doing a PhD at the university.

Volunteering did not exist for foreign students, but at the request of students, with time, discussions, and a lot of work on the part of Fr Kostolànova, foreign students were able to become volunteers and a new club should, I strongly hope, open in September under the coordination of Dr Kol’vek with the help of Dr Kostolànova.

This allowed me, over time to also pass on my knowledge to new foreign volunteers, which is a real pleasure for me because I love to explain to others.

The second thing that marked my veterinary studies was the Falconry and Raptor Rehabilitation Club.

The Falconry in Slovakia is a traditional practice registered on the list of intangible heritage of UNESCO. Being part of this club allowed me to discover this tradition, to work with incredibly majestic animals and learn how to take care of different species.

I also had the opportunity to represent the club in the university newspaper named, Ardo, by writing an article on rehabilitation. I am happy that the members of the club trusted me.

Overall, the UVLF gave me more than I expected. Of course, I found some aspects better than others, that there may be organisational problems and that things could be improved.

But above all, I see what is positive; I do and learn what I love in the pleasant green environment of the university.

I do not think that is the case for all students as not everyone has a tutor like mine, the chance to work on a thesis topic they like or to be part of a club.

However, doing all of this is also a lot of work and sacrifice. I do not go out to party often. I spend a lot of time at university, but that is not a problem for me because that is how I am happy here, and it gives me a lot of opportunities.

During these years at the veterinary university, we begin to learn all that is physiological in animals, covering anatomy and physiology.

Then we learn all the pathologies and, finally, how to treat and control them, including ruminants, horses, small mammals, pigs, poultry and new companion animals.

The content of the courses is sufficient to be a general veterinarian. But for me or any other person who wishes to be more specialised in one area, it is necessary to do self-research in parallel or even continue on other training after the diplomas.

Also, like most vet schools, it would take more practice to feel comfortable in the field. Fortunately, there are private or public internships or old veterinarians ready to train new ones.”

Stay tuned for part two.

To share your story, email – [email protected]

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