When we were children we say, “I want to be a fireman or a teacher even a princess.” From our simple perspective, the road to our destiny is a straightforward one, but as we grow, we discover there are many twists and turns. Such was the story of Julie-Ann Hinkson, a veterinary surgeon for over twenty years.
Love For Animals
She reminisced about her childhood dream. “I attended St Lawrence Primary, St Martins Primary, The St Michael School, Barbados Community College, UWI (St Augustine) and Massey University in New Zealand.
I was interested in veterinary medicine because of my love for animals and being in a household where the workings of medicine were seen.
My mother was a senior nurse and I spent my summer vacations with her at polyclinics all over the island. In 1997, I graduated and became a qualified veterinarian surgeon and went to work at a mixed animal practice working six days a week and on call seven days a week.
I Quit After Nine Months
The long hours and constantly being on call surprised me. I did not realise that was the expectation of vet services in Barbados, coming from a background where my mother worked from 8:30 to 4:30. I wanted to impact my family and loved animals but the time was too much to balance family.
I quit after nine months, personally devastated because I worked more than half my educational life struggling to be a vet only then to realise I could not be true to my profession and who I was. Going through a period of depression, my purpose we redefined in Christ.”
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Trained as a vet but could not practice? Since this had to be a defining moment in her life I asked her to explain what she went through and what the results were. “I stayed home and cried and watched TV. I applied to everyone in every area from gas station attendant to resort manager. Everyone said no. My situation caused me to be prepared to try anything.
An old friend from school – who I ended up marrying by the way – who was trying to invite me to church for more than a decade. I decided to go. What made me stay was the specific direct word to me. I was dating a British born Guyanese guy at the time and he had asked me to marry him. I was considering going to the UK but wanted to be near my family.
The word to me was, there were a lot of decisions to be made but take my time in making them.The decision was made not to marry the guy and end the relationship. Shortly after that, Mary Gibbs from Harrison’s College called and offered me a position teaching Maths to the advanced class part time. I was so hoping someone would call me back that I forgot what I had applied for so I had to ask! It was the perfect environment for me to regain my dignity and God showed me I had something of value to give to society.
I found that God was beginning to teach me things about me I did not know about myself and I started to fall in love with Him. Slowly, “my role as a vet” started to be reintroduced at a community level. People would come over to my mother’s house, I saw any animal and started to build a practice. People started to question whether I was a vet or a teacher.”
Isn’t it interesting how we often pigeon hole people and see them in one profession only doing things one way? For Julie-Ann, her ways of working her profession was about to take on a new expression again.
“I came to work at the lab (Government Analytical Services) in 1999 and got married in 2001. I went from a single practice to consulting with another vet. This melded into the 3D Pet Health Centre (a new business). My student revolving loan was paid off! After a few years, one partner wanted to do post doctoral work and I started to think about the same myself, studying pathology.
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There are two streams and I did not know the demands for either one in the country (Barbados) enough, so I looked for a school that would teach both vet clinical and vet anatomical pathology. Massey University in New Zealand is such a school and my family and I went there in 2013.
The program was good for me because I studied both areas and did research as well. After the program, I realised that pathology was not what I really wanted to do. Pathology puts you on two tracks, either as an employee of a lab or a university. Eeekk! Research gives you greater flexibility.”
Having travelled the road of discovery, depression, hope and adjusted perspectives, what advice would she give to aspiring vets? Do vet medicine for the love of it and not the money. I think vet medicine is not very lucrative in the current economical environment and it is hard to make a large living in the Caribbean.
What are five things that people may not know about you?
- I considered entering Ms Barbados.
- I am obsessed with countries and their flag.
- I love it when countries fight for supremacy like the Olympics.
- My favourite food is pudding and souse.
- I hate soap operas.
So where does Julie-Ann see herself in the future? “In the future I see myself as happy and satisfied. My family is good and pursuing purpose. Professionally, I am on a team which makes a difference in Caribbean positively with sustainable living policies that promote growth and support industries. I have an excellent life balance and get to do family, work and recreation in a sustainable way. Live a contented life, inspiring to further generations. Having property in every major city in the world. Love the Caribbean.”
What life lessons has this well studied professional learned and what words does she live by?
- Get to know God early in life
- Include Him in every decision
- Get to know yourself
- Peace Joy and Love is more important than money
“All the good stuff that has happened in my life has been because of God. Everything I came up with and achieved was because of God.
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