Biomedical Sciences

Dorothy Breed (MSc.IAH, 2014 Winter Graduation)

I qualified as a veterinarian 2006 in South Africa and after 5 years in private practice I decided to study further in the 'One Health' field. I came across the International Animal Health programme at the University of Edinburgh and was very keen to do a degree in this field, especially through this prestigious university. I started the programme in 2011 and finished in 2014.

Dorothy Breed with a zorilla
Dorothy (far left) with a zorilla.

I really enjoyed the taught aspect, as it encouraged independent scientific thinking and prepared you for your final thesis year. The independent thinking was supported by presenting the subjects in the form of a journal club and an assignment, which was in essence a small literature review.

My favourite subjects were the epidemiology related subjects, zoonotic diseases and wildlife health and environment. The thesis encouraged independent growth as you had to decide on your own topic and facilitate the research. This is different from many other taught Masters programmes that get criticized for spoon-feeding their students.

I managed to do my thesis investigating the epidemiology of feline immunodeficiency virus in lions in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. I analyzed 10 years worth of data collected, and although a small project it was unique as there was no knowledge of the prevalence of this disease in this park. It was relevant in relation to other conservation areas, as most areas in Southern Africa have been investigated - thus the information could be used to compare.

It will function as foundation work for future studies to come, and there are plans to have it published in future. I thoroughly enjoyed my project and although saying that the programme encouraged independent thinking, I still felt very supported and connected throughout my online studies.

I managed to attend a summer school in Kampala, Uganda (2012) and I am very glad I made the effort to meet some my classmates and staff from the programme. I am still in active contact with people I met and made extremely worthwhile connections.

My interest in the wildlife aspect of 'One Health' grew throughout the programme and doors started opening for me during this time.

I gradually became more involved in the conservation field until I was very fortunate to be appointed as the veterinarian for wildlife management in the City of Cape Town. I now get to use my 'One Health' skills often due to the urban interface with conservation areas.

As I advanced in the conservation field my relevant postgraduate degree gave me the added advantage I needed to progress.

I am continuing my academic journey in the form of a PhD in Capture Myopathy in wildlife through the University of Cape Town. I applied to the South African Veterinary Association Wildlife Group for a bursary and was very fortunate to be awarded funding to support my continued studies. There is not an ounce of regret that I completed this programme and I highly recommend it to people interested in the field, but not in a position to study a full time residential programme. It gave me the wonderful opportunity to 'study abroad' at a world class university in a feasible manner while continuing and changing the course of my professional life in South Africa.