“Why do you want to be in research?”, was the question often asked by many when I decided to leave four years of veterinary emergency practice to start in animal research. I have always been drawn to research; the idea to step back from medicine and to see what exact mechanisms are involved in causing diseases is captivating. A lot of what we do in life is based on common sense and from what we have learnt from others. But in healthcare, and medicine specifically, there can be a gap in knowledge. How can we use models to further what we know or what we want to know about specific disease processes? Having spent so much time in school, research brings the textbooks I have read to life.
“You are so used to the excitement in emergency, you will find research very repetitive, tedious, and boring”, as most of my friends from the veterinary field would say. But that was the exact opposite of how I felt when I stepped foot into Kingfisher International Inc. (KFI). There was so much to learn and so many exciting aspects of the job, I even found reading the countless SOPs – which many have referred to as “boring” – interesting! Of course, critical cases were not coming in the door constantly but that does not take away the excitement and fascination in animal research.
Many people do not understand the value of animal research, and how it benefits the world. It enables us to advance medicine, develop new treatments and discover cures. My family, especially my mom, feels that animal research is inhumane, cruel, and barbaric. But once I explained to them why we do what we do, they had a better perception and a higher respect for animal research. I replied honestly to questions they asked and helped them see beyond the negative media publications and misconceptions they had. They were simply unaware and oblivious of the benefits of the research world.
Even I held a fallacy towards research animals before I started working at KFI. When the time came for me to handle the animals for procedures, I anticipated them to be fearful and aggressive towards me, because with my experience in clinical practice I have encountered numerous fractious animals. But they were not – to my astonishment, they were extremely calm. The longer I work at KFI, the more I understand why my preconception is inaccurate.
We strive to provide the animals with the best quality of life possible. Rain or shine, we give them tender love and care every day, every minute, and every second. We work weekends, holidays, even leaving our family at home on Christmas Day to care for our animals. Our animal care staff puts on headlamps and hand scrubbed enclosures during power outages to make sure animals are fed and have a clean living space. We find a way to get to work to care for our animals even when roads are snowed in. Veterinarians rush in to work on holidays if an animal is not feeling well. We are not heartless; we are sad when an animal falls ill, and we cry when an animal is put down. We love animals and we care about them. They cuddle with us, we bond with them, and these animals care for us and show us their love and affection.
I work in animal research, and I am proud of what I do.
Joyce Fung, RVT is an Animal Care Attendant at Kingfisher International Inc.