Thursday, February 20, 2020

Student Member profile: Mary Belle Offutt

Mary Belle Offutt is a veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College.

1. What is your current research/position?
I just wrapped up the Mystic Aquarium Veterinary Externship in Connecticut. During this experience I assisted with the vet team’s caseload, diagnostics, all necropsies on site, desensitization behaviors, and had my own personal small holding aquaculture and aquaponics site visit. In a few weeks I jet off back to school in London to then graduate in July! 

2. What sparked your interest in aquatic animal health?
I have been focussing my academic career in aquatic research, science and medicine since before my undergraduate degree. Rather than pinning it down to an individual experience, it has been the accumulation of understanding about this tight knit, well researched and passionate community that have led me down this path. I find the aquatic sector personally inspiring and compelling due to the intimacy of the industry. 

3. What has been your favorite fisheries-related job?
Working with the vet in charge of the Scottish Sea Farms animal health program. I really enjoyed this experience because I got to see all aspects of the salmon industry from data collection, farm site visits and meetings with farm managers to business marketing and lectures in fish disease. Of course, running around the western isles of Scotland wasn’t the worst thing either! 

4. What do you like most about graduate/professional school?
I’m doing things every day that allow for growth from a professional and academic perspective but also on a personal level. As a veterinary student you’re constantly challenged to do your best and give your time. It can be really easy to view some of these experiences as negative impacts on your personal goals and confidence if you constantly feel like you are getting answers wrong… but it’s also a really good environment to take these situations as an opportunity for growth with the support of your classmates and professors. 

5. When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS?
I started looking more heavily into the AFS and FHS during my 3rd year of study. I had started focusing my studies in fish medicine at this point (lack of fish health being taught in lectures). In pursuit of more information and avenues of contact in the related field I spent a good amount of time reading into these websites. Additionally, this was the same time I started applying for externships for my final year. Without a decent contact database due to my international schooling, I relied a lot on the support I found online to discover where I wanted to attend for extramural clinics. 

6. What are your long-term professional goals (FHS or otherwise)?
I am currently trying to see where I fit in to the “aquatic career equation”. In the mean time I’m hoping to work in mixed or large animal practice to solidify my clinical skills and knowledge with a personal focus in aquatics. To that end, my long term goal is to support fishery management and aquaculture by utilizing medical insight to provide disease prevention, consultations, diagnostics and training to a variety of fish professionals. As the aquatic animal medicine field rapidly advances it opens opportunity to offer this awareness into fishery and aquaculture industries alike.

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