From chef to vet – my unusual career path…

by Paul Doran MA, VetMB, MRCVS, Friars Moor Livestock Health.

SEVERAL of my colleagues have suggested that it would be interesting if I wrote about how I became a vet, having started my working life as a chef.
When I tell people I used to be a chef, they are usually surprised and say it’s quite a dramatic career change that I’ve undertaken. I tend to shrug at this and say that as a farm animal vet, I still consider myself to work in food production. I’ve just chosen to focus on a different part of the process.
I gave a lot of thought to what other work I might pursue and veterinary medicine seemed to be the ‘best fit’ for me. I had grown up in a rural area, was interested in animals, food, farming and science, and while I had never put it to good use by that point in my life, I knew I was quite academically able.
When I looked into what becoming a vet would involve, I dismissed the idea at first. I didn’t have the right entry requirements for university and places on veterinary degrees were highly sought after. I did consider several other career possibilities, but in the short term, I left the kitchen behind and took a job for a local farm supplies company.
The job suited me quite well. The work was a mixture of shop work, warehouse work and forklift driving. I enjoyed the social aspect of being in the shop and got on well with the customers, most of whom were farmers, of course.
After a very short time though, I did get incredibly bored of it.
In the absence of a better plan, I decided to pursue veterinary medicine after all. I had adequate GCSEs to apply to vet school but I did not have the required A-levels and work experience.
My day job turned out to be a bit of a godsend. I accrued enough time off work to facilitate both taking my exams and undertaking plenty of work experience.

During this time, it became more and more clear to me that I really wanted to work with farmers and farm animals. I applied to vet school in 2010 and accepted an offer from the University of Cambridge. The first couple of years of vet school were the most difficult, not just academically but emo-tionally, for all of us, as we had uprooted ourselves from everything and everyone we knew.

Over the following years, things got easier, and we managed to adjust better to our circumstances. My studies became more manageable, and I came to enjoy being a student-parent.
I graduated in 2017 and have worked at Friars Moor ever since. I found the practice to have a very friendly, supportive culture that appealed to me right away and they went to a lot of trouble to help me ‘find my feet’ as a new graduate.
It’s also quite a diverse workplace which may have helped my unusual work history seem a little less odd than it might’ve done otherwise. They have really helped me develop as a vet and encouraged me to pursue my specific clinical interests.
Although it necessitated a lot of work and determination to change career in the way I did, it re-quired a lot from the people around me as well. Most of all, my wife Juno was incredibly supportive. She encouraged me and believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, and she helped me so much in so many ways.

I still love to cook and enjoy it very much as a hobby.

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