Shaping the Future with Mentorship

Written by Alex Davies Reading time: 5 mins

Alex is a small animal primary care vet working in Shepherds the Vets, South Wales. He has a passion for practice-based research and is currently working towards a certificate in small animal surgery. As President of Vet Mentor, Alex coordinates a national careers platform for aspiring vets. For his commitment to mentoring and widening access to veterinary medicine through the creation of a virtual veterinary work experience programme, Alex was awarded the prestigious British Veterinary Association Young Vet of the Year Award in 2021. 

Shaping the Future with Mentorship

Mentorship is the backbone of our veterinary profession. Mentorship plays a role in every aspect of our professional and personal development. Young vets in particular are benefitting from the power of mentorship. Investing in new graduate development has become a key focus of veterinary institutions and organisations in recent years. There has been a rise in motivational podcasts and webinars, an overhaul of the RCVS graduate development programme and the appearance of new mentoring organisations. Mentorship has been rightly branded as a real solution to many of the workforce and wellbeing problems facing the veterinary profession.

 

Put simply, mentoring describes the influence that ‘giving back’ has on learning. We can share knowledge, skills and experiences. Or on a deeper level, we can share our reflections on failures, mistakes and regrets. Anything that we give back can be a positive and comforting experience for the generation following in our footsteps, and can nurture leaders and professional game changers. 

 

My name is Alex Davies and I am a small animal primary care vet in South Wales. I admire how every vet pioneers their unique career for themselves. This is a testament to the creativity of vets and the vast career opportunities available in veterinary medicine. We each make our own meaningful contribution to animal welfare, and my chosen path is my commitment to mentorship.

 

In my role as a mentor, I have met thousands of aspiring vets over the past five years. Each student reminds me why I wanted to become a vet and the barriers I faced when entering the profession. We often forget the perseverance and emotional investment that secured us a place in a vet school. I have met students that are steered away from the profession because of a lack of support to guide students on their journey to university. The opportunity to widen access to veterinary medicine is how I have defined my professional identity as a ‘vet mentor’. Connecting with professional colleagues, I have implemented a national career platform accessible to all future and aspiring veterinary surgeons. We nurture an inclusive student population that represents a future veterinary profession that is diverse, equal and sustainable. Vet Mentor welcomes colleagues from across the spectrum of veterinary careers and provides them an outlet to inspire the next generation of veterinary leaders. 

 

As qualified vets, we know that a realistic insight into the profession is fundamental to making an informed career decision. As a mentor, I have observed limited work experience opportunities become totally inaccessible, as a result of the pandemic. Working within a multidisciplinary team, I created a virtual alternative to in-person work experience that prioritises the learner and is completely free. I took the opportunity to incorporate all the positive educational experiences that I had on my own application journey, but also to remove the classical limitations of work experience placements. My work experience programme exposed aspiring students to real clinicians demonstrating the values and skills that make a good vet, across the spectrum of veterinary careers. As pandemic restrictions relax, Vet Mentor are determined to grow our virtual work experience offering to ensure that any young person has equal access to veterinary careers and inspiration. I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the programme and the new network of vets that will shape future virtual work experience sessions. 

 

Maintaining my commitment to veterinary careers and outreach has strengthened my resilience and enthusiasm for my clinical responsibilities. This is the energising effect mentoring has on vets. Inspired by other young vets who continued to advance the standards of veterinary care even in the face of lockdown, I performed two practice-based research projects as my way of giving back to my patients. These research opportunities affirmed to me that a career in primary care practice is a valid one, with broad responsibilities and a wide reaching impact on animal welfare and society. 

Finally, if you are considering a career in veterinary medicine, then you are in luck because there is a whole community of young vets waiting to welcome you into our profession. It does not matter who you are or where you come from. It only matters that you pursue your dream vocation and you believe in yourself. To my young vet colleagues, I believe our community is built upon the principles of family, scientific enquiry and mentorship. Sometimes, all it takes to find a future vet is to share your own story.

If you are considering a career in veterinary mentoring and education then Vet Mentor would love to hear from you. Please contact Alex on dralexdavies@vetmentorfamily.org or visit his website www.medicmentor.co.uk.  

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