If your horse gets stuck in a swimming pool call this Irishwoman

The Irish vet dealing with all creatures great, small and horse-shaped in London

Carmel Molloy pictured here with a horse called Hope is a vet in an equine practice in West London

Carmel Molloy pictured here with a horse called Hope is a vet in an equine practice in West London

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Carmel Molloy from Holycross in Co Tipperary is a vet working in an equine practice in West London where she sees it all - as long as it has a horse’s face

Where did you train?

I graduated as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin in 2011 and after working in equine practice in the Curragh, Co Kildare for three years I moved to London in 2014 to work in a 100 per cent equine practice in West London. That surprises people back home, who always assume I work with small animals when I say I work in London. It still amazes me where horses are kept in the city, some are even kept in multi-storey stable blocks.

So what took you to the bright lights of London?

Would the diagnosis be revised wanderlust? I was lucky to travel to many far-flung places whilst in university and after graduation. I guess choosing London was a mixture of timing career wise coupled with the classic Irish adage of “not wanting to be too far from family”’ and add a splash of irrepressible quest for adventure. To build on my qualifications, I have completed a postgraduate certificate in Equine Internal Medicine with the University of Liverpool since moving to the UK.

One minute I could be taking X-rays of a horse’s leg in the countryside, next I’m on my way into central London to see a horse who has slipped on the road and needs stitches

Tell us about a typical day.

A typical day would start off with clinical rounds in the main hospital. We check in-patients, assess wounds or incisions, review blood results and plan the next 24 hours for those horses. Then it’s into my jeep and off on routine yard calls to review injuries, perform endoscopies of horse’s airways, give vaccinations etc. Parts of the day will also be spent in the hospital where we perform the trickier procedures such as MRIs and surgeries.

However there is no such thing as a “typical day”, which is a real perk of this job. One minute I could be taking X-rays of a horse’s leg in the countryside, next I’m on my way into central London to see a horse who has slipped on the road and needs stitches, then panic as a call comes in that a horse is stuck in someone’s swimming pool. When I am on call out of hours it can be even more hectic as there will only be two or three vets on duty to cover all the calls. Weekends on call are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates - “You never know what you’re gonna get”! That’s what makes it an exciting job. I guess that can make it a challenging career too, dinner plans frequently go out the window.

Will you come back to Ireland ?

Coming back to Ireland is certainly on the cards for me at some stage. I guess like most Irish abroad I am keeping an eye on the economy, waiting to see what happens with trade deals in the next few months. It’s prudent to remember that horses, as a luxury item and a business asset, are quickly affected by economic fluctuations. Saying that, equine veterinary is a very international profession, so career wise it’s a fortunate position to be in.

What challenges are there?

The trauma of seeing any animal in distress and pain is always a challenge. This can be compounded further if the animal has to be euthanised and the effect that has on their loving owners, or worse, cases of animal abuse where no owner can be found. It upsets vets just as much, even I we appear professionally calm at the time. It can take its toll and we are now aware of the importance of talking about it. Finding a stress release that works is important. For me it’s the gym or a walk with my Jack Russell, Tatters.

I will say the adjustment to the pace of commuter life in London took time. I think I cried the first time I tackled the infamous M25 motorway, now I drive it like a Londoner. Other than that, the cost of living in suburban London is similar to Dublin for rent, groceries and socialising.

What opportunities are there?

Personally I have made some wonderful friends. I’m fortunate enough to have the city of London on my doorstep and if the homesickness becomes too much, Heathrow is within 20 minutes away. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, ‘when you tire of London you tire of life’. I love to stroll around Covent Garden people-watching amongst the famous landmarks.

Professionally some of the most famous equine hospitals in the world are on UK soil and its great to have these to call on for emergency referrals and advice.

What do you miss about home?

I dearly miss my family and friends. Sometimes the homesickness can get a bit overwhelming. The warmth of the greeting when you go home is to be cherished. I miss the craic and how the Irish don’t take themselves too seriously. If possible I am more proud to be Irish now I have lived away from home.

I have quite the stash of Barry’s tea bags in the press (they have no idea what a press is over here, you have to say cupboard!). London is a most wonderful adventure and big step in my career, but it’s not home.

Have you any advice for those travelling abroad?

I would definitely recommend travelling abroad to broaden horizons professionally and personally. The veterinary world is quite close knit, we look out for each other. I have met vets from all over the world working in London, made great friends and learned a lot from them.

If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.co with a little information about you and what you do.

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