If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again

Posted on October 16, 2018 by Daniella Dos Santos

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I lost a pet goldfish and I was completely devastated. From that moment I decided to be a vet, and that desire continued throughout my school life. I adored animals and was fascinated by science subjects.

Getting into vet school the long way around

But I couldn’t get my head around chemistry A-level, and despite re-sitting, I couldn’t get that elusive “A” grade. I wasn’t ready to give up on the ambition of becoming a vet, so I did a degree in molecular genetics at King’s College London.

My goal of becoming a vet kept me motivated, as I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I took a gap year before my first degree to save some money, as although my family were incredibly supportive, I knew we didn’t have the finances to get me through vet school as a second degree. In hindsight, it was the best thing for me: my two gap years (including one after my first degree), my additional degree and working throughout it helped me prepare for the intensity of vet school, as well as enabling me to develop my communication and life skills. I have no doubt the communication skills I developed whilst working as a waitress, in a supermarket and as a catering assistant have helped me immensely in my veterinary career so far.

One more try

I had told myself that my 5th application was going to be my last attempt and had accepted a place on a finance graduate programme to become an accountant. I was interviewed by the RVC but was prepared for rejection again. When the UCAS notification came through, I sat looking at the computer telling it not to upset me once I logged on for about 2 minutes. When I saw “unconditional offer” on the screen, the relief and joy were indescribable!

Barriers and challenges

As a graduate student I needed to fund most of my veterinary degree myself. I was lucky to get a place at the RVC as being a Londoner I could live at home for a large proportion of the degree. However, the down side of growing up in London is that I had no contacts for lambing/farm placements, and they often required B&B stays. My family was not in a position to support me financially, so I took out professional loans to cover the cost, which I am still paying back now. Despite these challenges, I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel I have the best job in the work, amongst the most fantastic profession.

A dream career

I can’t pick a single “best moment” in my career so far. Graduation day was incredible, a dream realised. Since entering practice the best moments range from successfully carrying out a procedure for the first time, to cracking a challenging case and making your patient better. My relationship with pet owners also brings me so much joy, helping them ensure their pets live a happy, healthy, long life. I have also been lucky to have had the opportunity to be involved in charity work as a trustee of the Animal Welfare Foundation, advancing animal welfare through education, research and debate. My work with BVA is also something I am honoured to be involved in, and never thought I would ever get involved in veterinary politics!

If you want to be a vet…

If you have a realistic expectation of what life is like as vet (amazing patients, caring owners, as well as long hours and clinical challenges), then don’t give up!

Figure out how you can make yourself stand out, which doesn’t always mean veterinary related experiences. Do not underestimate the skills you learn while working in a supermarket for example, these will help you so much in managing difficult or sad situations you may need to deal with in the future. Gymnastics whizz? That’s great too as it shows you have other interests and a way to unwind.

Yes, you may graduate later than “normal” and it may cost you more financially, but despite this, I have absolutely no regrets and would do it all again.

Daniella Dos Santos

Written by Daniella Dos Santos

BVA Junior Vice President and AWF trustee

Daniella is currently studying towards a CertAVP Zoological Medicine and is the Principal Exotics Vet at Park Vets Hospital. She is also BVA Junior Vice President, the current Chair of the BVA Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel and a trustee for the Animal Welfare Foundation.