Mandisa is a locum small animal veterinarian who is now focusing on her family life and her new role as the President of the RCVS. Despite her busy schedule attending RCVS meetings, Mandisa agreed to be interviewed in hopes to inspire young students who may be going through similar challenges along their veterinary journey.
How did you get into your career?
At around 8 years old my parents asked how I wanted to be of service when I grew up. I explained how I wanted to look after people’s animals and they explained that would be called a Vet. My mum wanted to be a vet when she was younger, so my parents were invested in making my dream a reality. I spent most of my childhood playing with and caring for our pets as my parents decided that would be my role as Vet-in-training. They set about giving me as much exposure and access to vets and vet schools as possible. In high school, at the earliest opportunity I streamlined my education to fit my career goals choosing science and maths-based subjects as was the norm then.
Did you face any challenges along your journey and what advice would you give to young students facing similar hurdles?
Challenge 1: I didn’t get an offer! I applied to Vet school and was rejected by all four of my choices! Despite being very convinced of my vision, when I sought help to complete my first UCAS application I was advised by a careers advisor that it would be unlikely that I would get in. I hadn’t known anyone who applied to vet school in the UK; the internet was new and research materials were limited. One key piece of information I did not know nor had any advice about were requirements for work experience, therefore I did not highlight any experience I had on my first application.
“It is not the job of those helping you to believe in your vision - Do your research.”
Challenge 2: I didn’t get great A levels! Slightly unmotivated by my lack of offer to any Vet School, I completed my A levels but I didn’t achieve the 3A’s I was predicted. I decided to do a degree in Biological and Medicinal Chemistry at Exeter University to augment my academic achievements and gain loads more work experience. Whilst at Exeter, I spent most of my free time gaining work experience, researching how to get into vet school and speaking to anyone who would listen to my dream of becoming a Vet (this included my lecturers, course mates, flatmates etc). On my second attempt, I applied to four vet schools and received offers from three out of the four. I would go on to attend Edinburgh Vet School as a graduate student with the support of my parents.
“The path to your dream may not be straightforward, that is okay, no experience is wasted.”
Challenge 3: Vet school! I naively believed the hardest part was being accepted into vet school. I thought I would then glide through because this was a necessary step to fulfilling my life’s dream. Well, I did not glide, I mostly stumbled. I failed hard and failed often. After my first failed exam in second year, my Director of Studies asked me had I considered another degree.
“You are more than your score. An inability to pass exams does not necessarily equate to your ability to be a brilliant vet.”
What is it like being a minority in the Veterinary field and in the RCVS council?
To answer both questions. I am aware when I walk through most doors for the first time that I am usually the only black person and sometimes the only female in the room. I have never let the context of a room define my worth or hamper my contribution.
“Your worth comes from within, let your passion lead you, stay connected to your purpose and do not let anyone else define you.”
What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
You are enough, just as you are.
Trust in your vision for your life.
Have a support network of people who believe in you and who will always have your back.
The journey of life may seem long, but it’s not as long as you think - Enjoy the ride!
Written by: Michaela Nee-Chambers
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