Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh – Jamie-Leigh

Jamie-Leigh Thompson

Jamie-Leigh is a postgraduate student studying veterinary medicine and surgery at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh.

Tell us a bit about your background, and what brought you to where you are today?

I was born and raised in the small town of Blackburn, Lancashire, in the North West of England. I had to work extremely hard to get to where I am today, coming from a single parent family.

I started volunteering in a local vet's practice from the age of 14 – giving up my weekends until I was 17 years old. It was during these years that my passion for a career in veterinary medicine grew and my desire to follow my dreams took over. This drove me to persevere in my academic life to ensure my dream could become a reality.

What is your degree, and where are you studying?

I’m a postgraduate student, studying Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVM&S) at the University of Edinburgh – Royal Dick School of Veterinary studies.

I previously studied BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Science and received a first class honours at the University of West England (UWE) from 2010 to 2013 before applying to vet school and being accepted at Edinburgh.

I was accepted onto the Graduate Entry Programme (GEP) in which students with related previous degrees and relevant experience are able to condense the 5-year course into 4 years.

What inspired you to study in the area of veterinary medicine?

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to become a veterinary practitioner – initially one that began with an infatuation for all things furry! Throughout the years of my education I developed a love of science and medicine alike, as well as realising that the satisfaction coming along from helping both pets and owners is phenomenal.

As I progress through my years at vet school, I’m finding more specific interests. I predominately enjoy the concept of pet owner education and perceptions, but I am really fascinated by both cardiology and orthopaedics.

What qualifications did you have for your course?

For the GEP a previous degree is required; I also have A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, and an AS level in Physics, as well as GCSEs achieved at high school.
For the 5 year programme, the minimum requirement is A levels (or equivalent), usually 3 A grades. However it is individuality and experience that will bag you a place.

Why did you choose to study at Edinburgh?

Not only did I fall in love with the city of Edinburgh upon my first visit, but also the university and vet school itself are second to none.

I’m finding the University of Edinburgh a very well-oiled machine in which students, teaching staff and administration staff work intimately to achieve a positive environment for all. Everyone appears to have a mutual outlook and enthusiasm for the university. 

I choose to study here because the facilities I saw when I came to look around where amazing – at the vet school in particular – and all the students seemed happy to be there. They really seemed to enjoy their education, which is what you want to see. Obviously the school has a fantastic reputation but now, after attending, I think it’s clear why.

What do you like about the course?

I’m now in my 3rd year at the Royal Dick and I’m finally entering my clinical years – it’s so exciting taking real cases and working them through using all the knowledge gained in my previous years. The Vet school is a very well-knit community, in which older years and younger years both benefit from working together. 

I think the most exciting thing for me is that we are taught by professionals who are leaders in their subject area. Students are always updated on the most recent research (much of it carried out here at the school) and always encouraged to get involved with as much as possible, especially if we have a particular area of interest.

Although the University of Edinburgh is huge, it feels as though each student is personally catered for, which is great.
The school also has an internal student-run school council. The committee is comprised of students from all year groups. The council is a great way for students to express their opinions or problems, and for the student body and staff to communicate. The best thing is that the students' voices are always heard, and the school works to make changes and improvements to better our learning and overall experience.

What learning methods does your department employ?

The school has a number of learning advisors who regularly put on optional study skills sessions. In these sessions teaching staff and older students showcase their methods of study with the aim of helping others to determine their best way to study.

Alternatively these learning mentors can be contacted at any point by any student and will always offer personal sessions to help you manage your workload and figure out how best to study.

Each student also has a personal tutor. The tutors essentially monitor you throughout your time at the university and they are always there for you to go to with any issues you have in relation to the programme, the teaching, your workload, or even personal issues concerning your study or learning. It’s excellent to know you have someone to go to who will always help you out, or at least send you in the right direction – it gives you a sense of security. 

As part of the course we have to conduct a number of weeks EMS (extra mural studies), in which we go out and work in practice – preparing us for graduation and the industry. EMS have been and continue to be invaluable; I feel as if I am really maturing as a professional and learning so very much on an educational and personal basis.

What aspects of the course are you finding difficult? Does the department support you well?

Veterinary medicine is a very intense and difficult course – anybody would be lying if they said it wasn't. However I feel that all students who pursue this subject are fully aware of the demands.

I am coping well and really enjoying my time here and my education, due to the support the school offers in terms of the personal tutoring system and the study support.

I sometimes have a little difficulty with deciding how best to study different modules, as there are so many ways to study for the different topics. Being dyslexic makes this slightly harder. The university has a disability team who are there for situations just like this. I can arrange meetings with the friendly staff at the disability office who will help me to devise a study plan or give me ideas of things to do to help me strengthen my weaknesses.

What about the social side of things at university?

The university throws lots of social events – some specific ones for the vet school such as Dick Day (a competitive sporting event against the Glasgow vet school) and likewise for the main campus.

Students are encouraged to get involved with sports clubs and most timetables finish at lunchtime on a Wednesday to allow for sports teams training and games. I am the Captain of the Vet Ladies Football team which I thoroughly enjoy.
There are also a number of social events that run within the sports teams and you don't have to be a player in order to attend – the majority of clubs have a good number of social members.

What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated?

I currently really like farm animal medicine and I would love to go into farm animal practice; however I learn something new every day and new subjects are exciting me as I progress.

For that reason I think I’d like to keep my options open – but cardiology is looking interesting and orthopaedics are also fascinating.

My grand plan is to eventually have my own practice and maybe after a number of years practicing go into teaching. I also hope do to some research as I advance in my career.

How has your university supported your career aspirations?

As mentioned, the teaching staff at my university are experts in their fields – they each really enjoy their subject area and are always encouraging of students who expresses a particular interest in it.

The tutors really try to feed your excitement for that area and often recommend certain books or papers that may be of interest to you.

They are also excellent at setting up potential professional links for you, or at least directing you to where a link could well be made – all of which support your career upon graduation. 

The school itself also runs Vet Choice events and external careers events in order to give students a chance to see what doors a degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery can open for you.

Search for undergraduate and postgraduate Veterinary Medicine courses, or read our profile on the University of Edinburgh.