Emily Attard: Putting ag knowledge into practice in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

“Growing up in a rural setting, I loved being around animals, especially livestock,” says Emily Attard (Australia), now in the second year of her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at the University of Melbourne.

“I love learning, getting my hands dirty, farm life and animals so naturally I was drawn to veterinary medicine and agriculture.”

Emily Attard
Emily Attard gained credit equivalent to almost a semester by majoring in Production Animal Science.

She says completing a Bachelor of Agriculture first prepared her for her future study and gave her knowledge and confidence for her future career.

“I deliberately chose to study agriculture before undertaking the DVM as I aspire to be a livestock or rural vet,” Emily says.

“I wanted to be respected by farmers and understand how they run their animal production systems so I can better help them as a veterinarian.

“I think this has given me a more thorough understanding of the agricultural industry.”

The Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne has three majors, each of which can be a pathway into the DVM: Production Animal Science, Agricultural Economics and Plant and Soil Science.

But Emily gained credit equivalent to almost a semester as she’d majored in Production Animal Science, reducing her workload and fees in first year.

She says she learns best when putting knowledge into practice, which has benefited her in both her undergraduate and DVM practical classes.

“During my Bachelor of Agriculture, I found the field trips were good experiences which helped improve my animal handling techniques and put the content I had learnt at Uni into practise,” she says.

“The hands-on nature of first-year DVM placements helped improve my animal handling techniques further and have loved every minute. The practical nature of the study program was crucial in my understanding of anatomy and concepts that are difficult to grasp during lectures.

“It was also good to break up lectures with getting outdoors and seeing live animals.”

Her hands-on experience in the Bachelor of Agriculture also included representing the University of Melbourne at the National Merino Challenge and SA Sheep Expo sheep judging competitions, and leading the University team at the latter in 2018.

“The competitions helped me to make valuable contacts, and put what I learnt at uni into practice,” Emily says.

“I was also able to expand my knowledge in the sheep industry further and get more hands-on experience.”

Emily won the New Zealand study bursary prize for the senior division at 2016’s SA Sheep Expo, allowing her to visit the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Show, Lincoln University’s dairy research farm and a range of livestock businesses.

She’s also been inspired by both her teachers and her peers. Emily says she’s learned a lot from other DVM students and shared her own animal science knowledge and experience.

“The teachers have also been excellent and are always happy to answer any questions I have,” she says.

“Their wealth of knowledge and willingness to answer questions is great.

Elizabeth Tudor
Professor Elizabeth Tudor (right), who recently received an AM for services to veterinary science and higher education, demonstrates clinical skills to DVM students.

“I have found Professor Elizabeth Tudor particularly inspiring. She is not only an excellent lecturer but hearing about her work in rural and Indigenous communities away from the University is particularly impressive.”

Professor Tudor and other staff lead yearly visits to communities in West Arnhem Land and Victoria, where final-year DVM students provide veterinary care in communities without regular access to vets.

Emily says she’d like to take part in the West Arnhem Land visits later in her DVM – her advice to people starting university is to make the most of these types of activities, and support available for students.

“Make the most of the great lecturers and practicals, don't be afraid to ask questions and take every opportunity you can.”

Banner image: The University of Melbourne's Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students learn the science and clinical skills to treat all species, from tiny exotics like mice and hamsters to large agricultural and companion animals.