I’m delighted to have Dr. Jules Benson join our team as an AVP for Veterinary Relations! I’ve asked Dr. Benson for his thoughts about how he got here, and he graciously complied. We share similar values on giving a hand up to others! –– Dr. Carol McConnell
I want to start by saying I’ve been extremely lucky. My path to veterinary medicine, and ultimately to Nationwide, is one that wouldn’t have been possible without all the mentors, colleagues, friends, pets, and pet owners who have been with me along the way. For my first post with Nationwide, I’d like to take a seat in the way-back machine to think about (and thank!) some of the people who really helped me find my true north, and to get me to where I am today.
Growing up in northern England, I was fortunate enough to have access to an amazing public education. My high school chemistry teacher at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Dr. John Bentham, was one of the rare individuals who could make organic chemistry truly exciting. (This was way before “Breaking Bad“.) The depth of his knowledge and, more strikingly, the intellectual curiosity that drove it, left a deep impression on me. As I find myself, more than 25 years later, always probing deeper for the “why” and “how” in almost everything I do, I remember how some of that curiosity was kindled.
Between school and university, it’s not uncommon for students in the UK to take a gap year – to travel to a different country and teach or work, absorbing culture and language, learning new things and making new friends. I managed to work with a company called Project Trust, receiving a placement providing human and animal medical care to the native Bedouin residents of the Sinai Desert in Egypt.
The hospitality and generosity-of-spirit offered by the families we would work with was humbling. As a brash young Westerner, I found it a leveling experience to be so accepted by people with whom I shared no cultural or religious common ground except our basic humanity. As I’ve moved forward in my education and career, I hope I’ve lived up to this early generosity by being an ally and a proponent of diversity of all kinds. (If I haven’t, the blame certainly lies with me, not the Bedouin.)
The last place I want to visit on today’s trip down memory lane is the University of Liverpool. One of the options veterinary students in the U.K. have is to take an additional year of study to achieve an additional bachelor’s degree in a related life science.
At that time, a unique new degree in Veterinary Conservation Medicine was being offered at Liverpool. The individual designing and running this degree was Prof. Malcolm Bennett, the head of the pathology department and a leader in zoonotic and emerging disease. Prof. Bennett was a type of veterinarian I hadn’t met before – he was the first to suggest to me that our veterinary education provided not just a basis of knowledge but also mental tools and processes that had immense value outside of clinical practice.
The example he used that always springs to mind (and is apropos to our studies) was rhino conservation. While geo-tagging rhinos in sub-Saharan Africa may be an important tactic in preservation, our education may give us the tools to operate at a more strategic level, helping to navigate the technical, political and genetic complexities of habitat loss, or helping coordinate efforts to generate meaningful data that can help change government policy. While I knew early on that I probably didn’t want to stay in practice for my whole career, it was his influence that gave me the confidence to strike out and do something different with my education.
There is no doubt in my mind that the lessons I learned from these people were critical in helping me move forward and take a non-traditional career path in veterinary medicine. I use what they taught me every day, and I’m so excited to be able to continue my career at Nationwide, hopefully using what they taught me to continue to help our profession grow, and to help our pets and pet owners in my non-traditional veterinary way!
I’d love to hear any stories you have of mentors or experiences that have helped mold you into the individual you are today!
Thanks, Dr. Benson! Welcome to Nationwide Pet!