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An Open Letter of Gratitude to My First Veterinary Hero

18 years ago I graduated as a vet from Glasgow University, Scotland. I was 22 years old and the proud bearer of nine new letters after my name. BVMS, MRCVS.

Nine years prior I nervously walked into the reception area of a veterinary clinic called "Orr, Duff & Howat" in St. Andrews (The Home of Golf) and, Oliver Twist-like, I begged for a job…. "please miss, was there something, anything I could do to help out?"

From that point until I left for University four years later, Monday evening from 5-6pm was my time to clean kennels, feed in patients, tidy up and… if I got done on time... stand at the end of the exam room table and watch the vet in action.

Though I met a few great vets in this time, the one I spent the most time with by far was called Fiona Burnet. She was my first veterinary hero and this is a long overdue thank you to her for many things:

  1. For letting this young wannabe vet hang off the end of her exam room table. Even though I was so exhausted from school and rugby training that I regularly almost fell asleep while standing up!

  2. For being yet another strong, female role-model in my life.

  3. For being a super-vet who seemed to be capable of fixing almost anything - you made the job look very easy and I was in awe.

  4. For always being cheerful and grinning lots. Even though I know you didn’t always feel like it.

  5. For all the laughter and camaraderie within that small team that made me know that this was the right career for me.

  6. For being my first clinical coach and letting me do those first stitch-ups and dentals as a student vet.

  7. For modelling the ability and ‘guts' to read a book, believe in your skills and “get it done" so you could get better and better at surgery. (And because the animals needed you to).

  8. For being terrible at drinking beer, but having three pints anyway!

  9. For not losing your shit completely that summer when I got a teensy wee bit carried away with sanding your door frames and windows down for revarnishing. I don’t think a house has ever gone from brunette to blonde since.

  10. For being an immense, positive influence on a young vet’s life.

Though we have since lost touch, I hope this letter finds you well and happy.

With gratitude and love, from one MRCVS to another. Thank you.


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