30 Oct 2020
British Veterinary LGBT: Charlotte’s story
The most challenging part was trying to hold on to my identity during some very tough personal times. There were great demands on my professional time, maintaining a high level of patient care in a very challenging environment and coping with a move away from everyone I had ever known.
Telling our stories, making our own history
LGBT History Month
Name: Dr Charlotte McCarroll BVMS (Hons) MSc (VetSci) PhD MRCVS
Qualified as: a veterinary surgeon from the University of Glasgow in 2008
Area of work: after graduation I undertook a small animal internship in medicine and surgery at the University of Liverpool where I developed an interest in research. I was then accepted on a BBSRC funded Masters and PhD programme to encourage vets into research. I now work as a cardiovascular research associate at the University of Glasgow where I'm currently researching targets to improve cardiac function following myocardial infarction and ischaemia/reperfusion injury.
What inspired your path into the veterinary profession?
I have always been fascinated by science, whether it’s how the universe came to be and how it works, or how a living organism functions. During my school years I found a particular interest for the living body and how it reacts to disease. I also had a great interest for the animal kingdom in its infinite variety so veterinary medicine seemed an ideal path to follow.
What has been the most challenging part of your career?
The most challenging part was trying to hold on to my identity during some very tough personal times. There were great demands on my professional time, maintaining a high level of patient care in a very challenging environment and coping with a move away from everyone I had ever known. I was battling with my gender identity trying to keep it hidden and maintain a façade in front of my colleagues and clients. Under such high pressure I began to struggle with my mental health to a suicidal point. I felt I had nowhere to turn. However, I created the opportunity I needed to continue my career, in a field I enjoyed, and to be myself without the façade. High pressure is a lot easier to handle when you don’t feel the need to hide who you are.
What has been the best part of your career so far?
The best part of my career has been finding my niche. The veterinary profession has an incredible variety of options open to vets. We traditionally believe we’ll be the James Herriot style mixed practice vet treating a dairy herd for mastitis before tea and delivering puppies by caesarian in the evening. The reality is you can pretty much do anything you want. I always like finding out something new. During my small animal internship I conducted a small research project that identified new safer landmarks for sinus trephination in dogs with aspergillosis which was published in the Vet Record. The satisfaction from knowing I helped changed a small aspect of current practice for the better was unbeatable. This led me to find a position in research still using my vet degree and the knowledge I gained in training and the job. It was also a welcoming environment to allow me to start living the life I needed to.
What are your proudest achievements of your career?
I have a number of proud achievements. From my practice years there are the moments when you can discharge a patient to a loving family who until then were terrified of losing them or those 'aha' moments of getting a diagnosis you can now treat. Some of the proudest achievements are the students I have helped to teach and add to the next generation of the profession. Of course, I am a scientist, so I do love getting a paper out there that enhances our knowledge and can change people’s thinking for the better. It is particularly sweet now that the right name appears on those by-lines!
What advice would you offer to someone experiencing difficulty with their sexuality or gender identity?
It can be a very tough time for anyone. I had difficulty with gender identity in childhood and felt I could not transition. During my time at vet school the profession lacked any LGBT role models especially trans so I felt I would never fit in, never be accepted by colleagues or clients, that in order to survive I had to hide. My advice is that times are changing. It is still a very difficult and challenging world in which to be LGBT but the more we help each other, the easier it will become. Reach out to people you know and trust to support you, reach out to those of us in the profession who may have gone through something similar. When you are ready to be you, you will not be alone.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
I so want to say transition sooner, but it really wasn’t a safe time, so my advice to my younger self is to hold on, stay strong, it will happen for you.
- British Veterinary LGBT: Sam’s story - written by Sam Morgan, President of the British Veterinary Nursing Association
- British Veterinary LGBT: Peter's story - written by Dr Peter Jones, BVA President 2012-13
- British Veterinary LGBT: James’ story - written by James Greenwood
- Charlotte is a champion for diversity at the University of Glasgow
- Follow @bvlgbt on Twitter, like BVLGBT+ on Facebook or email [email protected]
- Rallying the troops for British Veterinary LGBT+
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