Thomas Westermann

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Alumnus Thomas Westermann with dog

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – Class of 2015

What are your hobbies?
Hiking, baking, reading, gardening, exploring new places, and dancing and singing (poorly, often in the car or shower, and sometimes publicly – but always with enthusiasm!) 

Favourite place to eat in Adelaide? 
Ying Chow on Gouger Street 

If I could go back to my university days, I would ...
Have a brilliant time! I wouldn’t really change anything. I feel like I took up as many opportunities as I could in both the course and on campus. I worked hard, pushed my limits, and had a lot of fun. It was an incredibly formative experience, with excellent people.

Most prized possession? 
A crocheted moustachioed lemon. It was made by a friend and I won it in a silent auction whilst working at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, in NSW.

I can’t get enough of ...
Being out in the sun (especially after surviving my first freezing Ithacan winter).

Something that makes you smile? 
Stumbling across something beautiful and unexpected. 

Something you are grateful for?
My family and close friends, among them the girls of the Oates house on campus, Tif, Emma, Magda and Amber, who are a massive part of why vet school was such a joy, and the key to how I got through times of intense stress and hardship.

Also, I’m profoundly grateful to Lucy Woolford – aside from indirectly helping me by being an incredible and inspiring teacher, and an amazing pathologist, she also directly helped me countless times, in various ways, in getting me get to where I am now – she has been instrumental in my career path.

If I could pursue a different career I would ...
Be outdoors surrounded by plants, not sure in what capacity – a botanist? Forest ranger? Plant pathologist? Really though, I wouldn’t change – I love vet pathology. It’s opened so many doors, at home and internationally, to things I hadn’t even conceived of in vet school. 

The most valuable lesson I have learned ...
Be honest and authentic in pursuing your interests, and make the most of every opportunity (that also means seeking out opportunities) – that may mean changing paths as I did, after almost two years in small animal practice. You may not reach your goals immediately, but that’s fine; if you persist, and are curious, flexible and adaptable, you’ll get there eventually, and learn a lot along the way.

I cannot get through the day without ...
Tea (will make an exception if camping or travelling).

Three words your closest friends would use to describe you?
Fun, caring, neurotic. 

Your definition of success?
Living authentically, doing good to others and yourself, finding things to be curious and joyful about.

My mother taught me ...
What it means to be loved unconditionally, and what it is to be a truly selfless, caring person.

Your career path in two sentences or less?
Opening every door I could, agonising over which path to take, and then finally embracing my chosen path, and giving it my all. I have never learnt more, or been pushed harder mentally, than in my current program – it is often exhausting, but honestly, it’s thrilling – and it’s only the beginning of my career in pathology.

Biggest career highlight?
My acceptance offers into US residency programs, after having gone on a trip around the states visiting different universities – joining Cornell University was a dream come true.

2020 is the year I will ...
So far 2020 has been very stressful! COVID aside, I’ve also been cramming for Phase I boards, which I mercifully passed a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve adopted a beautiful, lanky dog, named Bonnie. For the remainder of the year I’ll be working through the residency program, and working on some publications, with an infectious disease focus.

How I relax?
Having a hot bath and listening to the New Yorker Fiction podcast (which I absolutely treasure – it’s free – get around it if you like short stories).

When I get home the first thing I do is ...
Give Bonnie a cuddle (…when I truly visit home, which for me will always be SA, the answer is taking a walk around the family block, bike riding in Kuitpo forest and beach trips to Second Valley).

The biggest risk I have taken?
Leaving small animal practice to join the NSW department of primary industries as a pathology resident/veterinary officer – providing advice regarding disease investigations, often for notifiable diseases, to experienced field vets, was a steep learning curve!

A misconception about you?
There are none – everything you’ve heard (and more) is true. 

What advice would you give your younger self at university? 
Don’t worry so much about the course, or what people think of you – just relax as much as possible, and enjoy the ride.

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