Our first locally trained vets
Since South Australia was founded nearly two centuries ago not a single vet has been formally trained here - and that's caused ongoing skill shortages.
That is, until now. The first cohort of 35 students will graduate from the University of Adelaide School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences later this year after completing their six-year course.
Head of School Professor Kym Abbott said it was a milestone that was long overdue.
"Over the years it has been very difficult, particularly for rural veterinary practices, to attract and retain experienced vets," he said. "Previously students had to study interstate - and there was no guarantee they would come back."
A key reason for the long wait has been the prohibitive cost. In addition to teaching facilities, a veterinary school also needs a high standard clinical practice to provide students hands-on experience.
Funding for the $37 million school was finally secured with the persistence of former Vice-Chancellor Professor James McWha who convinced the Commonwealth to contribute $15 million and the State $5 million to the overall cost.
A Companion Animal Health Centre opened to the public in 2010 and a $10 million Equine Health and Performance Centre is also being built on campus and is due to open in September.
The equine hospital will be of major benefit to horse owners in the northern suburbs as the only other referral service providing equine surgery is located at Morphettville.
The School has established ambulatory veterinary services for both production animals and horses. These have been operating from the Roseworthy campus for over a year and provide excellent hands-on clinical training.
Already the combined state-of-the art teaching, research and animal care facilities rate among the best of their kind in the world. And that's being reflected in strong student demand.
The average intake after the first year has averaged 50-60 students with many more applications than places.
Most important, the majority are from South Australia, plus some from interstate and a handful from overseas.
"This is good news for the State's veterinary clinics because we estimate about 80 per cent of our students will be looking at veterinary practice after they graduate," Professor Abbott said.
"We are providing graduates for rural practice as well as companion animal practice nationally, and some are likely to move into other endeavours such as post graduate study, possibly government vet services or the pharmaceutical sector.
"Our School is also providing support for the local veterinary profession through access to specialists and continuing education."
Valuable assistance has been provided by private clinics in offering work placements for students in the final three years of their study. Most see it as a way of giving something back to the profession while at the same time they can screen for potential employees.
Originally from South Australia, Professor Abbott took over as head of the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences in 2011 during its growth phase after about 20 years in academia in the eastern states and with the Royal Veterinary College in London.
He qualified as a vet in Melbourne and practised interstate before returning to open his own practice at Birdwood in 1975. He also spent some time at a specialist sheep practice in the State's south east.
Since it opened the Roseworthy school has taken a lead in curriculum development through its integration of preclinical and clinical subjects.
"Traditionally vet schools have tended to compartmentalise courses but we've aligned ourselves with modern educational principles to demonstrate the relevance of course material straight away," he said.
"We have a lot of practical classes in the early years of the program to expose students to the clinicians who will be their principal teachers later.
"These integrated learning activities are designed to help them understand the application of what they are being taught. It stimulates their curiosity and creates deep learning rather than superficial rote learning.
"By the end of the six years our students have been exposed to excellent training in all areas of vet science by teachers of a world standard."
It's estimated that by next year the school will have about 100 staff and between 300 and 320 veterinary students.
In August the Australian Veterinary Boards Council advised that all Veterinary Surgeons Boards in Australia and New Zealand had given the veterinary sciences program interim national accreditation. The final accreditation visit will take place in November.
Driving around the countryside measuring sheep's testicles didn't phase Annabel Cadzow. Although she admits presenting the results of her fourth-year research project to a conference room full of sheep veterinarians was a "little scary". Annabel grew up on a sheep farm at Keith and has a special interest in sheep medicine. "I'm really interested in supporting commercial farmers to improve their production and management systems," says Annabel.
Chalette went to Chicago in July after winning the School's top academic award, the $15,000 Audrey Abbie Veterinary Perpetual Prize. The prize money helped Chalette attend the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention to expand her knowledge of animal behaviour medicine - an area she hopes to pursue once she qualifies. A childhood among domestic animals and wildlife in South Africa seeded Chalette's interest in becoming a vet. She has a particular interest in avian medicine.
Emma has wanted to be a vet for as long as she can remember. Both her parents are practising vets on Kangaroo Island and Emma was resigned to moving interstate to study until the veterinary school opened at Roseworthy Campus. Recently she joined 11 other students and two staff on a mid-year study trip with Wildlife Vets in South Africa for a unique insight into managing African wildlife. Emma plans to work in rural mixed practice in the State's South East after graduating.
Doing a veterinary science degree at Roseworthy has enabled James to explore two quite different but interrelated passions - equine medicine and involvement in small business. He used his entrepreneurial skills to help Senior Microbiology Lecturer Dr Darren Trott establish a business at the School making agar and other media to support teaching and research, and eventually plans to supply the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. James visited three leading equine practices in the US in mid-year and hopes to return to America for further equine study after gaining experience in mixed veterinary work.
Jonathon is hoping to secure a position in the pig industry next year after developing a special interest in the subject during his time at Roseworthy. A work placement with flying pig vet Dr Chris Richards took Jonathon to farms in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia and convinced him it was an area he wanted to pursue. Jonathon recently joined a course study trip with Wildlife Vets to South Africa prior to graduating.
Leila says her six years of studying veterinary allowed her to meet some amazing people, travel to exciting places and provided endless opportunities. Recently she worked with New Zealand fur seals on Kangaroo Island and at a stray animal shelter in Sri Lanka, and then headed off to South Africa and Namibia. "I hope to continue my adventures and work in New Zealand when I graduate," says Leila.