Dr. James Greenwood- Veterinary Surgeon with a passion for pottery!

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Tell us something about yourself!

My name is James Greenwood, I am a 33 year old practicing small animal veterinary surgeon living in Bristol, United Kingdom.

How come you decided to become a vet?

I’ve always had a really strong connection with animals and nature.  Most vets say  ‘I only ever wanted to be a vet’ but for me growing up in Yorkshire, my first choice was actually to be a farmer.  However, as I went through school I started to enjoy the sciences more so I took a Saturday job in our local vets practice and totally fell in love with the idea of becoming a vet, so here I am today!

Where did you study?

I studied at Bristol University and graduated in 2007.  The vet school has changed an enormous amount since I qualified.  The students today are more involved with hospital cases and are far better prepared to enter into clinical practice.  It is one of the leading universities in the country and I would wholeheartedly recommend Bristol as a place to study. Like most universities, the vet school was located out of the city centre and so the vets all become quite a tight group.  We were thrown together as a nervous group of school leavers, not knowing a single soul but ten years on, I would class those same strangers as my closest friends.  The best thing about vet school is the people you meet, the friends you make and the experiences you gain.

What does your veterinary work include?

I work in small animal practice and tend to see a lot of dogs (which I never complain about!).  I love the variation of general practice and my personal goal is to become the very best general practitioner I can be.  I have often thought about specializing, but there isn’t any one field I would particularly like to devote all my time to.  I also really enjoy the people side of veterinary practice. I really enjoy the daily interaction with clients and feeling like you are really making a difference in their (and their pets) lives.  I see that as a huge privilege and a major draw for me to stay in the job.

We see a lot of interesting pictures from your patients. Can you tell us more about the ones you found the most interesting and the most challenging?

I love sharing pictures of my patients (only with the owners permission) to promote the work of veterinary surgeons and educate owners.  If you love animals and you work with them every day, you witness things that most people would never see or even know about.

One of the coolest things (and most nerve wracking) was being called to a zoo out of hours to treat a 5 day old baby elephant with neurological issues.  That was a challenge. But I loved it. I was working in equine practice at the time and we treated him similar to a neonatal maladjustment foal.

Looking back, I can’t really believe I found myself in that situation with sole charge responsibility for this incredible animal, I felt totally ill equipped – but as with all vets, you cope and somehow I got through it!

Tell us something more about your writing and your blog?

I started writing my blog as an attempt to highlight some of the issues the profession is facing.  A report came to light that 1 in 10 vets qualified within the last 8 years were thinking of leaving the profession entirely and over half of them agreed that the career had not met their expectations.

I decided to write about it from my point to try and give an accurate overview of why I think this is the case. The article sparked debate worldwide, with similar reports of dissatisfaction across Europe, America and as far as Australia. The article received over 20k views, sparked debate and that triggered me to keep writing.

What is your opinion on “online vets”? Vets giving professional advice online?

For example, I wrote an article recently on telemedicine. Telemedicine has definite advantages but my worry is what happens if a condition is misdiagnosed or missed altogether?   My question would be whether remote diagnostic services can be regulated properly (and if so how and by who?)  However, I think overall there is demand for telemedicine from the pet owning public and once demand for a service grows, there will definitely be someone willing to provide!

What are you doing at the moment? Do you have any other engagements other than your daily job as a veterinarian?

I am currently doing some promotional work for a new television show called ‘The Pets Factor’, currently aired on CBBC every Tuesday at 5.25pm.  The show follows four vets (of which I am one) for a ‘behind the scenes’ look into the world of veterinary practice.  It was so much fun to make and has been really well received.  Series two is due out later this year.

We know your hobby is ceramics and pottery. We would love to hear more about it!

I’ve always had a very creative side and that needs an outlet! If I spend too much time in veterinary practice without letting my creative side flow, I can find it quite stifling.  I love ceramics – I’m using my hands in an artistic way but the end product is something to interact with in every day life.  I have now developed a sideline business making bespoke pet food bowls (quite fitting given the day job!) and love it! I recommend everyone to play about with clay – it’s very good for the soul!
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Shaky, shaky!! Feels SO good to be back behind the wheel after a few weeks vetting. Been making dog and cat bowls all day but through an act of sheer rebellion I decided to have a go at throwing a massive serving bowl!! . . I always think it’s good to sometimes step away from routine….(in everything really)….but especially as a maker, otherwise your mind becomes saturated and you lose some of the enjoyment that being spontaneously creative brings. Whether you cook, paint, bake, sew -I find It’s good to take a break from the norm to remind yourself how much you love your craft. Does anyone else agree??!! . . @jamesgreenwood_ceramics . . #crafts #ceramics #stoneware #homeware #wheelthrown #pottery #bowl #handmade #tuesday #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #wearethemakers #menstyle #imadethis #keramik #bristol #uk #craft #bake @ceramicscentre @potsinaction @pottery_videos

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Do you have any advice for the future vets?

I guess for me, I turned my back on my creative side for too long.  For the first 5 or 6 years of practice – I concentrated solely on veterinary medicine.  If you are not careful, that can become all encompassing and, in my opinion, allows compassion fatigue to creep in.

Work hard, yes. But allow yourself time outside of work to properly switch off and enjoy something totally non veterinary related!  A happy life is all about achieving a healthy balance.

What are your goals for the future?

I am starting a new job as part of a clinical management team in September which I am really excited about.

The ceramic pet food bowls are becoming more and more popular and the order book is currently overflowing which is amazing.  I am now starting to look to outsource some orders and expand the range and brand.

We are hoping to hear any day whether the television series is recommissioned – keeping all fingers and toes (and paws) crossed!

And finally – I hope to continually grow my own happiness within veterinary medicine.  I love this profession so much and it just keeps getting better and better. It hasn’t always been an easy ride but I truly believe you have to make veterinary medicine work for you because the longer you stay ‘in the game’ the more fulfilling and rewarding it becomes.

If you like the interview, read more Interviews with Veterinary Professionals

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