Helping animals and their humans

Ashleigh Odams is one of 33 graduate vets working in rural areas after being selected for the...
Ashleigh Odams is one of 33 graduate vets working in rural areas after being selected for the government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians. PHOTO: MPI
Christchurch-raised Ashleigh Odams is among 33 graduate vets in the latest intake of the government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians (VBS).

These vets get a financial boost to work in rural communities and Ms Odams is based at VetEnt Lincoln.

Agriculture Minister Todd McClay said the long-standing scheme was continuing to deliver more vets across rural New Zealand.

"The scheme has been running for 14 years and was set up to help ease the shortage of veterinarians working with production animals and working dogs in our regions."

He said the scheme’s recipients each received $55,000 of funding across five years in return for working in rural areas.

The funding helped graduate vets pay off their student loans for a significant head start to their careers, he said.

"Vets are a vital part of the community, and this scheme helps attract some of the brightest and best new graduates to our regions."

The scheme supported farmers and helped rural communities to thrive, he said.

The programme is delivered by the Ministry for Primary Industries, and since it started in 2009 has supported 449 graduate vets.

Ms Odams explains why she wanted to be a vet and part of the VBS. —

What are two to three things you enjoy most about your role as a veterinarian?

I absolutely love working as a veterinarian. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is getting to advocate for the welfare of animals and knowing that I am making a difference to their quality of life. It is very rewarding walking away from a job, knowing that you have really helped that animal or farmer with the work you have just done. I also love working alongside farmers — working co-operatively in a challenging economic climate really helps to build relationships quickly. I also really love the client education aspect of my job. I feel privileged to be in a position where I can help improve conditions by drafting animal health plans and working alongside the farmer to ensure all animal needs are met.

Did you have to move to take up your current veterinarian posting?

I was fortunate that I got to move back home to Christchurch after vet school. I had been missing home and my family for five years while studying in Palmerston North and being back is really great. It feels like I never left.

What were the main reasons you chose to work with production animals and/or working dogs?

I think the production animal sector is so important for a multitude of reasons. I feel very lucky that I get to have an impact on the welfare and outcomes of these animals. The animals that I deal with are so varied as I get to work throughout much of Canterbury and our respective clinics here — from sheep and beef, dairy, pigs, alpaca and everything in between.

Why do you think the VBS is important?

The VBS is especially important in a difficult economy where it is so hard to retain vets, especially in more rural areas. These areas are coincidentally the places that require vet input the most and it allows us to form a deeper tie to our clinics and stronger relationships with the farmers in our areas. It really provides some stability, knowing that for the next five years minimum, you will be working in your community to really make a difference. I think it also provides peace of mind to your clinic, knowing you are incentivised to stay for a prolonged period of time.

What were the main reasons you applied to the VBS for Veterinarians?

Coming out of vet school, we all have huge student loans, frequently into the six-figures. For the vast majority of us, we become vets because we are hugely passionate about the work we are carrying out. This is a stark contrast to some people who think we are in it only for the money. Despite knowing that we will be paying off our loans for a significant portion of our careers, we pursue veterinary science anyway. Personally, I have wanted to be a vet my entire life — I always had a drive to fix animals and help their humans. There is a huge peace of mind that comes with the acceptance into the VBS — I feel more secure in my job knowing that I can complete my work and continue to progress in my skills in this difficult economic climate. And I’m sure my clinic feels more secure in my intentions to stay with them for the foreseeable future, especially in a time when vets are in high demand.


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