Jill’s veterinary career began in Sydney. She earned her Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney in the 1980s, then completed an internship at the university, and landed her first job in full-time private practice at Haberfield Veterinary Hospital in the inner west of Sydney.
In 1981, Jill moved to Canada for a couple of years to take up a residency in small animal medicine at the University of Guelph in Ontario, before returning home to Australia (and the University of Sydney) to begin a PhD on the neurochemistry of hepatic encephalopathy.
After completing her PhD in 1987, Jill worked as a senior tutor and clinician, then lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the university. In 1990, she became a lecturer, then senior lecturer in Department of Pharmacology, a role she held for 10 years. During this time, she also worked in general and specialist veterinary practice and was a consultant for a veterinary clinical pathology lab.
In 2000, Jill was appointed as the Director of the Veterinary Science Foundation (the promotional and fundraising arm of the Sydney School of Veterinary Science), at the University of Sydney.
But wider world beckoned, and in 2001, Jill moved to the UK with her family. Her husband, David Church, had been offered the role of head of the small animal department at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London. In 2002, she accepted a part-time position as veterinary clinician and lecturer at the RVC, where she worked at the college’s first opinion practice. She also became a Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge, where she tutored in pharmacology. In 2005, she became Director of Professional Development at the RVC.
Today, Jill is Professor of General Practice, Director of Professional Development, and Director of the undergraduate veterinary science course (BVetMed) at the RVC, where she enjoys undergraduate teaching and delivering continuing education in the areas of small animal medicine, clinical problem solving and clinical pharmacology.
In addition to her many teaching and administrative responsibilities, Jill has published over 60 refereed papers in veterinary and medical journals. She is also the senior editor of the respected veterinary publications Small Animal Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Reasoning in Small Animal Practice.
Not surprisingly, Jill is a highly sought-after international speaker. She has lectured extensively on clinical problem solving, small animal internal medicine and clinical pharmacology. She was co-chair of the Scientific Program Committee for the WSAVA Congress in Sydney in 2007 and she has an ongoing role as the coordinator for the main small animal clinical streams at The London Vet Show. Jill was also chair of the WSAVA Continuing Education Committee between 2012 and 2017, and she is now regional coordinator for Asia on the committee.
To keep her hand in private general practice, she regularly consults at a local veterinary practice and at the RVC’s first opinion practice, the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital.
Companion editor, Heather Vaile caught up with Jill recently to hear a little more about her life in the UK, and to find out what she plans to talk about at the FASAVA Congress 2017.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional interests?
I am a small animal veterinarian who has in some ways followed a conventional pathway through my career (mainly in academia) and in other ways an unconventional one. Although I am essentially a small animal medicine tragic and trained as an internal medicine specialist, my interests have moved from being focused primarily on the clinical aspects of specialist internal medicine and moved more to the education of general practitioners.
I still consult regularly but now only in general, rather than specialist, practice. My passion is helping veterinarians in practice, including in areas of the world where small animal practice is only just emerging as a discipline, to develop their most important clinical tool – their brain – to enhance the quality of their practice and their enjoyment of it.
Along the way, I have also developed a passion for teaching practical and relevant clinical pharmacology. And just to keep me busy, I have added a professional management aspect to my work and since 2005 have been the Director of the Continuing Professional Development Unit at the Royal Veterinary College. We run online and onsite continuing education courses for over 2000 vets and nurses every year. Being Director has immersed me in many aspects of running a business, such as understanding budget sheets (to a limited extent!), developing marketing strategies, course development, team management and much more.
How you find living and working overseas? Is it something you would recommend to others?
I have lived in the UK now for 16 years. Prior to that, I lived in Ireland for several months and then very early in my career, in Canada for two-and-a-half years. All my overseas living experiences have been fantastic and enriched my life, not the least of which has been by allowing me to develop a world-wide network of life-long friends and colleagues.
I enjoy life in the UK immensely – the work and travel opportunities are fantastic. There can be challenges living on such a crowded little island though. Key things to make life better – avoid having to commute far for work, stay off the motorways on holiday weekends, always allow about three times as long as you need to get to Heathrow to avoid developing an ulcer, travel on the Eurostar to Paris whenever you can, and get a dog and/or garden – preferably both!
England is a beautiful country and the access to green spaces from virtually any town or city a real plus. We live 20 miles from the centre of London yet can walk through fields for hours without seeing another soul. I still call Australia home of course, and love coming home regularly to see family and friends and spend time in our flat in Kirribilli.
Have you noticed any cultural or professional differences since relocating?
It takes a while to realise but English people really are different to Aussies in some ways. They are usually more reserved, can take a while to get to know, don’t necessarily speak their minds and can be frustrating to deal with when they use ‘no reply’ as a way of saying ‘no’. Having said that though, once they are your friend, their loyalty and support is deep, heartfelt and unwavering. Some people can have a tendency to irritating pomposity, even when they have good hearts – Aussies tend to tolerate that poorly and try to puncture it whenever possible.
What you miss most – and least – about Australia?
What I miss most and least are flipsides of the same issues. I miss the stretches of consistently great weather Sydney usually has at certain times of the year (though not when I visited this March when it rained continuously for four days!). And I don’t miss February and any other times when it is really hot and humid.
I actually quite like English weather – which is probably enough for some to demand my Aussie passport be confiscated. I miss the more relaxed approach to life and friendliness in Australia and don’t miss the lackadaisical attitude to service delivery and customer care that sometimes results from this. I miss being in country that is fiercely proud (the Brits just want to moan about how rubbish everything is) and I don’t miss some parochial and small world views that this can sometimes lead to in people. I miss Sydney Harbour and coffee but I don’t miss Sydney traffic. And I miss my family and friends. Though luckily, thanks to my Distance Education course with the CVE, I get to see them all quite regularly – sometimes more than I did when I was living in Sydney.
What are you planning to talk about at the FASAVA Congress and how do you hope this information might benefit small animal vets?
My lectures at FASAVA are a great mixture of the four main veterinary passions in my life – clinical reasoning, internal medicine (especially the liver), clinical pharmacology (especially antimicrobials) and veterinary education.
My interest in the liver started when I was in final year – a vain attempt to impress a postgraduate student in my vicinity by writing my essay on hepatic encephalopathy - how geeky! This led to a PhD in the area and a continuing clinical interest in liver disease. I am particularly interested in the tricky issue of how to interpret clinical pathology results related to the liver and pancreas. The consequence of changes can range from clinically inconsequential to life threatening – the trick is knowing when to worry.
Inappropriate antimicrobial use is a One Health global issue in veterinary and human medicine that we all need to be involved with. Although rational antimicrobial use in small animal practice in many countries has improved over the past couple of decades, there are still antimicrobials prescribed in small animal practice in all countries for patients that do not have, and have no risk of developing, bacterial disease. And in some countries, antimicrobial sales are completely unregulated. Recognition of the problem of antimicrobial resistance by the profession and society in those countries is often weak, mainly due to lack of education. I hope that I will be able to give some practical guidance about how to reduce antimicrobial use in practice while still effectively treating the patients who need them.
I am particularly excited about my lectures focused on education, as these will allow me to indulge in my interest in clinical reasoning and decision making – the foundation of effective clinical practice. Whether we like it or not, most vets in practice are teachers now and being an effective teacher in the workplace is no easy task. I hope I can provide a few glimmers of guidance for those that are interested in enhancing the student learning experience and their own enjoyment of hosting students.
What are you looking forward to about the FASAVA Congress?
I am very much looking forward to catching up with friends from ASAVA (oops – ASAV!) from around the Australia and the world. I do a lot of teaching in various Asian countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India and I am very much hoping that some of the wonderful people I work with in those countries will be at the meeting.
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