Dr. Clare Allen, MA, VetMB, PhD
Senior Teaching Associate Curriculum & Innovation
I am currently defining a new position for myself in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, as a Senior Teaching Associate in Veterinary Education after a career path that has been far from linear. I graduated from the University of Cambridge’s Veterinary School in 1996, and did an equine ambulatory internship at Millbrook Equine Practice in New York State. After completing my internship, and working for several different equine practices, I started teaching in an Equine Studies Program at Cazenovia College, in Cazenovia, New York, and founded my own equine practice in the area, called White Horse Veterinary Services. In 2005 I started teaching at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and became interested in veterinary education and curriculum development. This led me to apply to the
doctorate program in the School of Educational Policy and Leadership at The Ohio State University. It was in that programme that I discovered my inner Social Scientist, and I completed my PhD in 2013, while working at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine as a Clinical Assistant Professor. I am very happy to have returned to Cambridge to continue my work on outcomes assessment, curriculum development and the career choices of vet students, as well as teaching equine husbandry and handling at Merton Hall Farm. When I graduated from vet school, I never would have predicted that I would be working in this field. I was one of those kids that wanted to be a vet from when I was very little, and thought that once I found my niche in equine practice, that I would spend the rest of my career there. However, looking back on my career path, it all makes sense now. I consider myself fortunate to be able to achieve my goal of being a vet, and I will always be a proud member of the profession, but there were clues throughout my career that I had other skills to contribute, outside of clinical practice.
I studied History and Philosophy of Science for my Part II Tripos to intercalate my degree in the third year of my veterinary education, and I credit that with starting my formal training in looking at the social structures that influence science, education, and veterinary medicine. I also have always had a passion for literature, film and theatre, managing to participate in many theatre productions at Cambridge as a student. My favourite part of acting was delving into the human stories of the characters I was playing during the rehearsal process.
Then, once I was in equine practice, I remained fascinated by the evolution of veterinary medicine, as I observed the effects of the increased number of women entering the profession. Once I started to have my own children, I found that it was unsustainable for me to keep working in large animal clinical practice and being on call 24/7, as I was attempting to do. This is what led me to explore alternative career options in academic veterinary medicine, and eventually to my postgraduate training. My doctoral research came out of my interest in how my gender and lifestyle choices had shaped my own career path.
My two boys make work life balance non negotiable spending time with them and being a good Mum is too important. But if that made it impossible for me to stay in equine practice, what sort of implications does that have for our profession when more and more vets are facing the same dilemmas?
I believe that the journey is as important as the destination, and that the loops and roundabouts add richness and value to our work and lives
In my work, one of the most valuable pieces of advice that I have heard, from one of the professors in my graduate programme, was to find something in my work that sustains me. If you find work that interests and sustains you intellectually, you will be much more resilient to the stresses and strains of life, and how they will affect your career path. My own life, and my research, have both shown me that career paths are rarely as straightforward and linear as we present them to be, especially for women. But I believe that the journey is as important as the destination, and that the loops and roundabouts add richness and value to our work and lives.
I look forward to joining the AthenaSWAN panel in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, and helping other women to discover what sustains them, so that they can reach their full potential, and contribute more to the world.