Monica Loder (Fr 2009) is a graduate of Veterinary Science from Sydney University, and was one of the first Indigenous students to receive an Indigenous Scholarship at St Andrew’s College. Now a Veterinary Surgeon with an accreditation in Thoracic Imaging, a Fear Free Pets certification and a special interest in soft tissue surgery, Monica has taken time out of her busy schedule to tell us about her time at College, the ups and downs of being a Veterinary Surgeon, what she enjoys doing in her free time and her words of advice to young Androvians.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from originally and where did you grow up?
I’m originally from the Central Coast, however I spent most of my childhood and schooling in Newcastle, NSW. After finishing high school, I was lucky enough to be accepted to study a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Sydney University. I have lived in Sydney ever since (for the past 10 years) and currently live with my fiancé and our cat.
Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?
It was by chance actually. I (being an unorganised teenager) hadn’t organised any accommodation for my move to Sydney. I guess I thought it would all just fall into place, which luckily, it kind of did. I was staying with my grandparents initially which was great, but not for long term. I was part of the Gadigal program (a pre-university academic workshop for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students) and they mentioned that a place at St Andrew’s was available for an Indigenous student. The next day I went with my grandfather to have a look and the rest is history! Being from Newcastle and not having had parents who attended Sydney University, I had no idea about the residential colleges.
What was your favourite part about being at St Andrew’s?
The comradery and connections you make with all different kinds of people. It was great to be able to make friends and socialise with people studying different courses and from different backgrounds to makes sure Vet Science didn’t rule my life! Since leaving Drew’s it is also great when you come across a fellow alum and can chat to them about all the things that have changed and the crazy things that happened at College.
Why did you choose to study Veterinary Science?
From as far back as I can remember I have wanted to be a Veterinarian. Growing up my best friends were animals and I always knew I wanted to work with them later on. I did go through phases where I thought that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the marks to get in to Veterinary Science, so I had to consider other options, though there was nothing else that took my fancy. If I hadn’t been accepted into Vet Science straight from school, I probably would have completed another course (like Animal and Veterinary Bioscience) and reapplied every year until I got in!
How did St Andrew’s help you achieve your goals in your life and or career?
The Veterinary degree was extremely involved and included a lot of face to face hours as well as the study and assignments at home. Being at St Andrew’s allowed to me have no commute time, meals prepared and rooms cleaned, which meant I could really focus on University. There was also great support academically though mentors and tutors who come to College for small group learning.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?
Completing a Spartan Beast (21km obstacle race) in Hawaii, with the added difficulty of humidity and heat! My partner and I flew to Hawaii in 2016 to complete it and then recover our poor bodies for a week afterwards. I remember after about 3 hours wondering why the hell we were doing this to ourselves. Six hours later we finished with mud in every pore and orifice, having almost fallen off a cliffside several times – but done. And I vowed never to do it again!
Tell us about a day in your life as a vet.
6:20am: Wake up and breakfast on the run as my commute is an hour (If Drew’s taught me anything it’s how to perfectly time waking up to get to class/work right on time!)
7:30am: I’m in hospital doing patient checks, physical exams, planning for the day and updating owners
8am – 10am: Consulting
10am – 2pm: Surgeries (if there are any booked in otherwise continue consulting)
Fit lunch in somewhere between patients/surgeries/phone calls and other admin
2pm – 3:30pm: More Consulting. Hopefully leave the clinic by 4pm
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Clients and their expectations. Often clients are very demanding and believe that their animal is more important than any other. Clients expect us to be able to diagnose without tests and that it should be free because we do it out of the goodness of our heart. I would prefer if clients treated us like human GP’s – I find there seems to be more respect for human doctors even though you can tell your doctor what is wrong! Unfortunately, we cannot speak to our patients. We need to perform further tests to find out what is wrong, we need to charge in order for us to get paid and put food on our table, and we do make mistakes because we are human.
It can also be very challenging to have a work-life balance. I try really hard to get out on time and once I leave the clinic I am done for the day. I try not to dwell on my day as vets can often get caught up on what they did, what they should have done, what they need to do tomorrow. This can be very draining and you need to have some down time and hobbies that are not Vet related.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The problem solving aspect. There is nothing more satisfying then being confronted with a problem and finding a solution. Most of the time we see common things like ear infections, itchy skin, vomiting, diarrhea, but occasionally we do get something that challenges our brains. I get bored very quickly so it’s nice to have variety in the job. I definitely prefer surgery over medicine.
How are you managing at the moment during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Vets and Veterinary clinics have been very lucky during COVID times. From my personal experience and that of my Vet friends, most clinics were actually busier during the lockdown. People were using it as an excuse to leave the house and take their dog to the Vet so we were seeing more consults in our day. Little things that owners may have not noticed or given some time to resolve on its own, they were now like helicopter parents and being seen for every little thing! We also split into teams in the height of the pandemic so our days were 11 hours long which is very exhausting when you see clients all day. I’m glad it’s returned back to normal now.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
Fitness and outdoor activities are a big part of my life. My partner is a personal trainer so his day revolves around exercise which sometimes means he’s not up for it out of work hours. But then I just get him to coach me and push me through grueling workouts. We love to go skiing in the winter and camping/hiking in the summer. We tried mountain biking there for a while but that has sort of faded off. I believe it’s really important to have hobbies after work hours so you actually have something to leave work for, otherwise it’s tempting to stay late all the time.
What are you reading/ watching/ listening to at the moment that you would recommend to others?
I tend to watch a lot of regular TV as a chance to switch off after work. I like shows or movies that I don’t have to think too much about because I have to think so much during the day! I love The Handmaids Tale and Dead to Me, both of which have a long wait for the next season. I’m a big fan of the Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor in Paradise (my guilty pleasure), and I’m really into True Crime podcasts. I listen to these on my commute and have to make sure the volume is down when I’m waiting at lights, otherwise if people could hear the gory details coming out of my speakers – oh boy!
What words of advice would you give to young Androvians?
Make the most of every opportunity. Attend all the events, VD’s and sports days that you can. My one regret from College is that I didn’t do a lot of these things, so I feel I missed out. My excuse was that I had too much Uni (8-5pm everyday face-to-face learning) to be able to attend events during the day, and then had to get up early so I didn’t do many parties at night. I wish I hadn’t had been so studious and maybe break a rule here and there to go to events and support Drew’s. I have great friends from Uni because we spent so much time together and so my friendships at Drew’s suffered a bit for this.