Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Student-Led Teaching Awards are back to recognise outstanding members of learning and support staff. After a challenging year for everyone, we’re celebrating our worthy nominees by shouting about their successes across our digital platforms.
What is your full name?
What is your job title?
Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Surgery
What school or service do you work in?
The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.
I joined the University of Edinburgh’s surgery team at the Hospital for Small Animals at the end of 2019, having graduated from the Dick Vet in 2005. I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon, and was inspired by the staff who taught me, many of whom I now work with and many of whom are friends. I’m so lucky to be back ‘home’ and to help train vets who will champion our profession in the future.
After graduation, I pursued further surgery training as an intern at the Royal Veterinary College and them a resident at the University of Bristol. I joined the Animal Health Trust in 2011, where I ran the surgical department and undertook a part-time PhD on the genetics of canine cancer.
Now that I’m back at Edinburgh, I look after canine and feline patients who require a variety of soft tissue surgeries, which can range from correcting breathing problems to removing cancer. I love to have our students with us on the clinic and to demystify a lot of the preconceptions or challenges people worry about with surgery as a discipline. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know our students outside of the clinic via online wine tastings and exercise classes and look forward to doing this in person as soon as possible.
What does it mean to you to have been nominated for a Teaching Award this year?
This last year has been incredibly tough for us all. Both staff and students have had to adapt to a shifting landscape quickly and effectively, many of us with caring responsibilities, travel complications, and/or health concerns. I was genuinely concerned that the online platform would not be amenable to teaching surgery, which is a very visual and hands-on discipline. I spent a huge amount of stress-filled time planning and re-planning the soft tissue surgery core rotation, and it was very nerve-racking to release the rotation for the first time. I need not have worried: the students have made this rotation what it is, and have gone above and beyond in owning the learning opportunities provided. Their enthusiasm is boundless and thirst for learning insatiable: I was so proud to see everyone so keen to learn recently that we all walked into campus for the rotation recently, knee-high in snow, because the buses had stopped running.
This nomination is a welcome and invigorating accolade that we’re going in the right direction in the surgery department, and that all our hard work and sleepless nights have been worthwhile. I hope that we have inspired others to return to Edinburgh as clinicians or postgraduates, like I was inspired in 2005, and I look forward to working with our current students as peers in the near future.
What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students?
I absolutely thrive on debunking all of the mystery and falsehoods that surround surgery and make it seem inaccessible. I never get tired of seeing students realise that there’s no single way to do surgery and that not all patients read the textbooks. The moment when a student realises they can figure out what they need to do on their own, based on their solid pre-clinical and clinical knowledge is fantastic!
Its also important that I help students to realise that we are humans and make mistakes, so I share a lot of my errors and misjudgements, some of which have sadly led to fatalities. It’s important for students to realise that their educators are not perfect, and we don’t expect them to be either.
How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year?
Using the Hybrid Model for a surgical rotation was a source of huge stress for me because I didn’t think it would work, and I am delighted it has been as successful as it has! I’ve learned that the more opportunities for learning, the better, so we use a real combination of live sessions (in large and small groups), discussion boards, emails, chat boxes, telephone…
We do very little pre-recorded sessions (although they’re available as ‘extras’ if desirable). I have caring responsibilities at home and know that the current situation means that very few people are working 9-5 at the moment, so I make sure I’m available at all times, day or night, via email or Teams if students need help or support whilst they’re on rotation with us.
I make sure that the rotation includes a reflective component too, so that students can realise how much they’ve learned and they have some downtime to spend on themselves, which is a luxury at the moment. I think this exercise surprises them, and allows an opportunity for quiet consideration of their performance, accomplishments and future goals. I love reading these short essays best of all!
What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year?
My biggest challenge is juggling teaching and clinics with homeschooling my 2 and 5 year old! My children and cat have often made an appearance on Teams, and they have taught me patience and good humour, and how to find the ‘mute’ button very quickly.
I really miss being part of a busy, bustling, noisy clinic and I cannot wait to have all our students around us as soon as possible.
What would you say to the student(s) who nominated you, or students who are considering submitting a nomination for a staff member who has had an impact on them?
Don’t underestimate the uplifting impact a nomination has on your chosen staff member, and particularly this year. The fact that you’ve taken the time to nominate us is a great honour and a highlight of this year.
To find out more about the Teaching Awards and browse nomination categories, please visit the Students’ Association’s website.