Dr Gayle Hallowell

Dr Gayle Hallowell, IVC Evidensia Director of Professional Development, is an American Diplomate in Large Animal Internal Medicine and Emergency and Critical Care, EBVS® Diplomate in Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, Associate Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is also Editor In Chief of Wiley’s Veterinary Medicine and Science journal. She is an equine medicine specialist and works part-time at Pool House Equine Hospital as part of her IVC Evidensia role. In her spare time she loves cookery, photography, reading, walking her dog Paddington, and looking after her large menagerie of shelled, scaled and feathered creatures.

Please summarise your journey:

I’ve always loved animals. I grew up with a grumpy cat and badgered my parents to let me learn to ride as soon as I could talk. I was inspired by the TV series One by One and went to Cambridge wanting to be a zoo vet. But I also had an amazing equine role model, John Newcombe, who worked at a local practice. Halfway through my studies, I decided I wanted to go down an equine route and did an equine internship at the Royal Vet College where I found myself falling in love with what drugs could do for patients. I graduated in 2002 and became an internal medicine and ECC specialist for large animals. I also had a pull towards educating and moved to Nottingham to do an equine-based cardiology PhD. I spent 15 years there in the world of academia, trying to inspire people as to what a great job this is. But after working my way up the ranks, I became disheartened about the number of vets who didn’t stay in the profession. I wanted to look at what could be done with postgraduate careers and that’s when, very fortuitously, the Director of Professional Development job with IVC Evidensia came up. There are many reasons vets leave, but we want to ensure we keep them by giving them very clear, structured pathways to development. I joined in February 2022 and, working with others, we introduced our GP Vet Futures Programme which aims to shine a spotlight on GP vet careers, and recently had our first award. I’ve found that IVC Evidensia are very open to new ideas, and we have many other initiatives being worked on.

Describe your typical day from waking to sleeping:

I always start with a black coffee, and I drink a lot more of it until lunchtime. I meet with people from within and out with the business, both in person and virtually, all day. Although my head space probably isn’t as great after 4pm. Then, during the summer at least, it’ll end with me taking my black Labrador, Paddington, for a walk which really lets me process and unwind.

How would you describe yourself in a sentence?

I’m very much a clinician who wants to make a difference to those around me, so I’d say I was driven, enthusiastic and fair.

How would others describe you in a sentence?

I think they’d say I was pretty positive, smiley and want to reach a good end point when I meet people.

What has been your top success and what have you learned from this?

My research has always been led by clinical questions and my top success probably came from a conference networking session where we came up with an idea written on the back of a serviette in a restaurant. We actioned it and went from knowing very little about equine gastric glandular disease to publishing an incredible number of papers.

I’ve learned that conferences online don’t allow that level of networking and engagement. You don’t have that to and fro over a beer or glass of wine!

What has been your biggest challenge, setback or failure and how have you overcome it? How did you grow or change as a result?

The low point in my career to date was the first year of my PhD. I had gone from a busy, clinical training position, where I saw and achieved many things each day with cases, to a largely, self-directed, foreign environment (the laboratory), where I could work a 60-hour week and achieve nothing as my experiments had not worked. I very nearly quit this research training position, but am glad I didn’t. I started doing some clinical work for a wonderful, local practice and I mixed up my laboratory time with reading and collecting clinical data. I learned so many research skills over that year including my love of epidemiology and statistics, which I try and utilise to help others now when I can.

What compromises have you had to make and what, if anything, could have helped?

At the outset of my career, I loved the idea of academia where I could be a specialist vet, an educator and a researcher. It became clear as my career progressed that actually it was very hard to do all of those well and by trying meant none got the attention I wished to bestow on them. I think it took a lot of soul-searching to work out where my priorities lay, helped by a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis, that sometimes made doing clinical work challenging. My passion lies with clinical education and I am so lucky in my role at IVC Evidensia where I can still be involved in research with projects and the research fund (and I am Editor-In-Chief for Veterinary Medicine and Science). I can design and deliver clinical programmes and career pathways and still undertake some clinical work at Poole House Equine Hospital.

What advice would you have given to your younger self, that you would now give to others wanting to follow your path?

I always thought I’d have a career in academia until I retired. When I got to the point where I was disenchanted, I felt I was a failure. I would have told my younger self that being happy and engaged at work is as important to being happy elsewhere, so you should only do things for as long as you believe in them.

I couldn’t have got where I am today without…

I’ve had some amazing role models, starting with my parents. They had a fantastic work ethic and made me believe I could do whatever I wanted. This was then followed by Alan Findlay, my Director of Studies at University and a fantastic vet in practice, John Newcombe whom i saw a lot of clinical practice with as a student. After graduation, I was so fortunate that there have been many more people in my career who made sure I was stretched and was always learning.

What are your three top likes?

Teamwork. Educating. Fixing animals.

What are your three top dislikes?

Mornings. Mood hoovers. Negativity.

What is the most helpful book you’ve read and why?

In my teenage years, I was committed to a veterinary career in conservation. As such I read a lot of books on some of the early pioneers in this area. One of these books was called ‘Through the Looking Glass’ by Jane Goodall, who spent much of her early life (and a lot of time thereafter) working on chimpanzee conservation in Tanzania. This would have been at a tumultuous time to live in East Africa and she thrived as a woman, conservationist and had a son in this environment. She continues to be a strong advocate for female leaders – her story was and is inspiring and powerful.

Many thanks to Dr Gayle Hallowell for sharing her story to inspire veterinary women to aspire and grow into their full
career potential.

If you would like to share your story please get in touch at info@veterinarywoman.co.uk

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