Whether it’s treating animals, working with horses and their owners or looking out for her fellow veterinary professionals, building a career around what she loves has proved a winning formula for Lindsay Henry, Vet of the Year in the Petplan Veterinary Awards 2020.
Celebrating outdoors in her pyjamas with her husband, horses and a bottle of champagne may not be the conventional way that Vet of the Year winners mark their success, but with a virtual ceremony replacing the annual awards event, it seems only fair that this year’s winner should celebrate this way.
Lindsay said: “It was a complete surprise. I was thrilled that my clients took the time to nominate me and overwhelmed to hear my name on the night. I still occasionally pinch myself to check it’s real, but it was lovely to win – especially as my family, friends and clients could all be at the virtual ceremony with me.”
While the pandemic created huge amounts of uncertainty in 2020, including a completely new format for the Petplan Veterinary Awards night, one thing has always been certain for Lindsay. She said: “I’ve always wanted to be a vet. It never felt like there was anything else I could be.”
Growing up in the central belt of Scotland, animals were always a big part of Lindsay’s life. As well as her family’s ducks, chickens and lots of more traditional pets, village life meant plenty of farm animals were always around.
She said: “I remember getting caught trying to pinch a couple of sheep when I was five years old. I’d got them in our garden and closed the gate. I was desperate to look after them. I’d always be off looking for animals I could look after or bring home.”
Lindsay’s passion to grab every animal-related opportunity has stayed with her. She said: “When I was studying to be a vet, one of our tutors told us that just 1 person out of the 100 or so in the room would go on to work with sheep. I wanted it to be me.
“When you’re at vet school you learn about every species, so why wouldn’t you want to go on to work with them all, too?”
To help her achieve this, Lindsay started her career working as a mixed practice vet, treating any and every animal that came through the doors or needed care. However, after a few years, another of her passions – her love of horses – saw her take up a role in 2018 as a veterinary surgeon at Kessock Equine Vets in Inverness.
She said: “I’ve always loved horses and have three of my own. I think because I’m a rider I can understand the daily struggles and really empathise with whatever the owners – and their horses – are going through.”
Alongside treating the animals, building relationships with owners is one of Lindsay’s favourite parts of the job. By fully understanding the issues they’re dealing with, she said she can become a stakeholder in both the animal’s and the owner’s journey.
She added: “It’s about much more than keeping an animal healthy. If an owner is looking to compete with his or her horse and I can help make them feel more comfortable with this, they’ll both get so much more out of it.
“When owners start asking me questions about their animals that you don’t really need to ask a vet, then I know we’ve got a strong bond.”
This connection between all three parties was something that was commented on in the nominations for the award that were submitted by her clients. Many said how patient and understanding she was with them when they were worried because a horse or pony was unwell, with one even saying that they were “almost jealous” of the connection she had with their ponies.
Although these comments from her clients show that focusing on equine was the right move for Lindsay, she admitted she hasn’t been able to completely turn her back on other animals.
She said: “It was always a bit of a joke at the practice that, if it was Friday, I’d find a stray animal to look after over the weekend. There would always be an injured bird or a stray dog that needed rescuing, or I’d come in late because I’d seen a farmer on the way in who needed help with lambing.
“I love being a country girl and I love being a country vet.”
This reputation even followed Lindsay to a Tough Mudder event she was taking part in with some colleagues to raise money for charity. As she was going through a particularly gruelling water section, she raised her head to be greeted by a steward asking her if she was the vet who had picked up an injured duck the other day.
Another of Lindsay’s passions is supporting the veterinary profession – especially given the challenges it is currently facing. Alongside all the uncertainty and stress resulting from the pandemic, the development of a more corporate culture has changed the way many vets work.
In light of this, Lindsay is pleased to see more support being made available across the profession. In particular, she points to groups such as Veterinary Voices UK on Facebook as a great way to connect with and support other people in the profession.
Lindsay is also particularly keen to support the next generation of vets coming into the sector. She recalls finding it tricky switching from university life to working in a practice and is keen to help others through this transition.
To assist, she regularly enjoys a spot of teaching and mentoring, and is more than happy to share any hints and tips that can make a real difference when starting out.
She explained: “I love helping people achieve their full potential. It’s wonderful seeing someone go off full of confidence and about to start their studies or embark on an amazing career. It’s so important that we get the right people into the profession.”
- This article first appeared in Vet Times (Volume 51, Issue 2, Pages 12-13).