Welcome to Vet Mentors Emma Callaghan!

Emma qualified from the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies in 2004. She then began her career in a small animal and equine practice in Nottingham before moving back to Scotland to be a small animal practitioner. She also enjoyed a spell working as a locum vet and took some time to travel before settling in Scotland permanently.

She began a new role working as Membership Liaison Advisor for the Veterinary Defence Society in January 2019 which she does alongside part time locum work. The combination of the two roles allows her to maintain contact with friends and colleagues in practice and keep up to date with clinical skills while she pursues the challenge of a new opportunity, working on behalf of the members of the veterinary profession, something she has become very passionate about. It has been a career highlight for her to join an organisation which is so well respected in our profession.

She has also been fortunate to volunteer as a director for The Vet Trust Charity, which aims to advance the knowledge of veterinary professionals through provision of affordable CPD and annual grants. From this, she met people who encouraged her to apply for the vacancy of regional representative for the BVA, a role she was elected to in 2018.

"My time so far with the BVA has helped me to remember why I became a vet in the first place and I am excited to be involved. I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of my life as a vet, the variety and flexibility really suit me and I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunities I have in recent years. I hope to continue to learn new skills and meet interesting people as my career unfolds. It is without a doubt that the friends we make along the way is, for me, the best part of being a vet."


Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?

I always start the day watching the news and having a coffee while I get ready. I like to stay up to date with current affairs especially politics. I am often away with work or starting a locum shift some distance from home so I tend to leave early but when I can, I will take my dog a walk first thing in the morning, this keeps us both happy by getting some fresh air and exercise and sets us up for the day.


What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?

The main setbacks for me have been the loss of a family member and a friend. Bereavement has had a lasting and life changing effect on me and it has helped me to put things into perspective and understand what is really important in life.

I have also experienced professional stress, anxiety and loss of direction as a vet which has ultimately led me to seek fulfilling work which matches with my values and ambitions. Having experienced this, I have a great sense of solidarity and empathy towards anyone else in the profession who relates to these feelings and I really believe we need to look out for one another.


When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track?

We all have bad days, the tough part is when you get several all in a row.

I have become much better at taking one day at a time, even the bad days end eventually. Self-doubt is something I have to work on on a daily basis and I hope one day I will get there!

A quote I heard recently resonated with me, professional golfer Rory McIlroy had a shocker of a first day at the Open in Portrush, he said afterwards “At the end of the day, I’m still the same person. I’ll go back and see my family and friends and hopefully they won’t think any less of me after a performance like that today”. I really relate to this, I know I have brilliant friends and family who have my back and will still love me no matter what. Being a vet is a huge part of my identity but there is life outside of veterinary too.


What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?

I have become better at saying no to extra locum shifts on weekends or when I am supposed to have time off. I would do 6/7 days a week when I first started and found it hard to say no but working too much can lead to burn out and resentment and I know I need to find a balance. I am fortunate to be in a position that I can say no if I feel I have to and I try to live by the mantra that “life’s too short”.


If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?

I would give everyone either a novel or a travel book of the genre/place of their choice. Reading a book unrelated to work and getting lost in a story is one of life’s gifts. Travel is also the best way to widen horizons and get a fresh perspective on life. My favourite novel is North and South but I also like crime novels and autobiographies. The most recent one I read was called War Doctor by David Nott which is well worth a read.


Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?

I really enjoy listening to podcasts when I am driving. I love political podcasts and particularly interviews such as TED interviews and Desert Island Discs. I also like entrepreneur podcasts such as “how I built this” which includes episodes on how Airbnb and Instagram started, these are fascinating and inspiring. I also like to listen to audible while I drive and particularly autobiographies.

I also really enjoy going along to my local parkrun. I love how inclusive it is, I am not very quick at all and the people are always so encouraging, it’s a great thing.


What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?

The best buys for me are always tickets, be it to live music, comedy or the theatre. I would rather buy an experience than a “thing” …though I am also partial to retail therapy it is true. This past year I will have enjoyed tickets to comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe, seen the spice girls on tour, seen the Proclaimers 3 times, Snow Patrol and Kevin Bridges.

By the time it gets to New Year and I am reflecting on the year just gone, it is not the stuff I have bought I will think about, but the people I have spent time with and the things I have done. Money well spent I think.


What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?

I found this question really difficult to answer. I think bad advice is only bad if it is wrong for that particular recipient. Most people give advice based on their own experience and perspective and are usually well-meaning, it doesn’t always make it wrong but it can of course be totally unsuitable as one size fits all advice.

I think we all need to trust when we need to do things our own way and that we are all different and will be shaped by our own experiences, values and ambitions.

On the other hand I hear lots of good advice being given such as finding a job with nice people and good support, keep in touch with friends, exercise and socialise, talk to people and share your worries, don’t stay in a job which makes you miserable, volunteer, network and always explore your options!


What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?

Stay in touch with friends and make regular plans to meet up. Share your failures as well as your successes, you will connect so much more with people when you realise everybody makes mistakes. Go to your reunions, organise one if you can. Don’t be the guy/girl who boasts about how much surgery you have done, it all evens out in the end and this career is a marathon not a sprint.

Be humble and remember the good old VDS saying of “there but for the grace of god go I”, we are all in this together.


If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?

“Hi Veterinary friend, book your next holiday today! 😊”


Have you been inspired by someone in your career? Or know someone in the veterinary profession who has made a positive impact on you?

There are no strict criteria for contributors or mentors, other than that they are positive, supportive members of our profession.

If someone you know springs to mind, or you have any feedback or ideas relating to our Vet Mentors project, please get in touch - info@vetled.co.uk