Serena Maini is a European Specialist in veterinary ophthalmology and is currently working at the Royal Veterinary College, Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (QMHA). Here she tells us about her journey into veterinary medicine, her proudest moments and what it is like working as a specialist in ophthalmology.
1) How did you get into veterinary medicine?/Can you describe your journey into veterinary medicine.
I've always loved animals and been drawn to them; for me, this job was truly a vocation. In hindsight it seems strange that I was so set on this career from a young age; I wasn't from a farming background, we didn't have pets at home, and my parents were not keen on the idea of me becoming a vet. Pets at that time were not a typical feature of the traditional Indian household - it was considered an unusual career choice and my parents were a bit concerned. By the time it came to filling in UCAS forms they had come round to the idea and were very supportive; they have continued to be so throughout my career.
2) What was the most pivotal moment in your career/what are you most proud of?
I will always remember reciting the RCVS Declaration (our version of the Hippocratic oath) with my fellow students (and by then, firm friends) on the day of our graduation; it was a happy and emotional moment. The journey into vet school is not an easy one, and when you get there, the hard work begins - completing the degree is an achievement to be proud of! In terms of the most 'pivotal moment' - I would have to say my internship year at the RVC, which opened my eyes to career options I didn't know I had.
"The journey into vet school is not an easy one, and when you get there, the hard work begins - completing the degree is an achievement to be proud of!"
3) What does a normal working day look like for you?
My role is predominantly clinical, and mostly supervisory these days. Our day starts at 08.45 with morning rounds when we discuss the ophthalmology inpatients in the hospital. Following this, the ophthalmology team splits into a consulting team, emergency team and surgical team. I am paired with a resident (ophthalmologist in training) and assist them with their work throughout the day, whether that be consultations, emergencies, or surgery. I am also involved in teaching undergraduate vet students on rotation. The ophthalmology team join together again for evening rounds at about 16.30, when we catch up with each other and find out what has been happening with our patients during the day. I work a 1:5 on call rota, when I am available for emergencies overnight and at weekends. When not on clinics, I spend time carrying out research and completing teaching duties.
4) What advice would you give your 16-year old self?
I would advise her to trust her instincts and not allow others to undermine her confidence in herself. Be kind to herself and carve out time to meet her needs - don't compromise on this. The veterinary profession is a wonderful one, for so many reasons, but it can also be extremely demanding.
5) What one thing can a student hoping to become an ophthalmologist do today to get started?
Tell us you're interested! We love when students express interest in our field and can't help but engage and interact with you. Take advantage of the time you have with us in the lecture hall and on rotation; there are no silly questions! Take the opportunity to do ophthalmology-specific CPD once you are in practice and communicate with your local ophthalmologist - most are very willing to give advice on cases even if you don't refer, and these discussions will vastly improve your knowledge, competence and confidence. You may eventually decide to do an ophthalmology certificate or a residency, or neither - everyone finds their way, and there is no rush to decide.
6) What do you love most about your job and why did you choose to go into ophthalmology?
I love the variety of work that presents itself to us. Both veterinary surgeons and nurses develop a wide range of skills and knowledge that we should be proud of. It's a caring profession, and an intellectually stimulating one. Even on bad days, there really isn't anything else I could imagine myself doing. When it comes to ophthalmology, well, honestly, I didn't even really like it to begin with! During my early years in practice I was not confident in my ophthalmic knowledge, understanding or skills. I decided to do some CPD to bring myself up to scratch and discovered how fascinating it was...I followed this up by seeing practice with ophthalmologists around the UK and from there my interest really grew.
"It's a caring profession, and an intellectually stimulating one. Even on bad days, there really isn't anything else I could imagine myself doing."
Written by: Serena Maini
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