…by Ayebare / from Uganda / MSc International Animal Health / 1st Year
Growing up, the dream of every kid in my kindergarten was to be a doctor, pilot, nurse or driver. Yes! Those were the heroes of our days and mine wasn’t any different. I dreamt of being a doctor and saving as many lives as possible, especially the old man in my neighborhood who had been down with agony for as long as I had known him.
Unlike many peers of mine who changed their dreams to being musicians, models, writers and billionaires, yes! You read it right, Billionaires; mine didn’t change a lot though reading detective novels and watching detective dramas became my hobbies. I loved saving lives and I subsequently became the no.1 enemy of disease. I wanted to see every human being in good health, perhaps even with immortality.
Fast forward to my late teens and I was one of the brightest stars in my biological sciences class. My parents were proud of me, my relatives envisioned me as a great surgeon and my friends……ooh! My friends saw a smart friend from whom they can copy to pass their assignments to get promoted to another class. I dreamt on and to me saving a life was all about administering a life saving medication through injection and tablets or doing a successful injection. All I wanted to learn in class was this, not Darwin’s theory and other evolution stories I was subjected to in my A’ level class. A life of science started to bore me, and my father being a health worker, I started to see a lot of flaws in my dream profession. But starting afresh wasn’t an option at this stage; I decided to change how my story would end. How would I do that? I didn’t know. I left it to God.
In 2012, something strange happened, and I can gladly say it defined my present career path. My grandmother died of Tuberculosis which was reported to have originated from animals. The suspected defective cow and its offspring were sold to the butcher. Surprisingly, grandma was allergic to lactose and therefore didn’t take milk or any milk products. Then how on earth did she contract bovine Tuberculosis? This got me thinking deeply and it was at this time that I began to appreciate that saving a life is more complex than treatment or surgery. I also realized that the majority of people minded about human health but no one thought about the suffering these voiceless animals go through, and the impact of animal diseases on people. I fell in love with science again but now from a different perspective. I decided to marry my hobbies to my career passion. Medical drama series and science fiction books became my new hobbies and this helped me appreciate science better. However, this didn’t go well with my parents because they weren’t happy with my obsession for movies and novels. Scientific investigation became my new gem.
Going to college was a decisive time for me. In this part of the world, college education is still a dream for millions of young people, therefore, the choice of the career someone chooses to take has a lasting impact on the community and the younger generation looking up to him/her. To everyone’s disappointment, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary medicine. I saw this as a great opportunity to be a scientific investigator one day and solve the problem of animal diseases affecting humans but my friends and relatives looked at it from a different angle. All they pictured in their heads was a local Para-veterinarian commonly known as “musawo” who always rides around cattle farms with his small toolkit containing a few bottles of drugs and a syringe for jabbing sick animals. This is how undervalued the Veterinary profession is in this part of the world. To many, I was a lost cause.
I knew I had broken many hearts especially my parents who always wanted me to pursue a medical career, but I was determined and focused on writing my own story. Their pride was tainted but I knew a Veterinarian is capable of many things contrary to what the majority thought. The five years at the Veterinary school were a trying moment for me; all I focused on was not disappointing myself. To my greatest relief, I landed a good animal health job in one of the top organizations in my country a week after my graduation and this eased some tension on me. However, my dream remained my priority and I continued searching for opportunities for career growth.
July 2019 will always hold a special place in my heart as this was the time I was confirmed for an MSc in my dream course at the University of Edinburgh. 2 months later, I landed a great opportunity in the field of Veterinary epidemiology in public sector and just like that, my life started taking shape. Little did I know that the scientific investigation I was so passionate about would become the real life epidemiology I am practicing today.
I have had a number of paradigm shifts in my life so far but the ultimate goal hasn’t changed. As a Veterinarian, my life-saving scope has increased. I now focus on saving the lives of animals and people. With more than 75% of all emerging infectious diseases reported to be zoonotic, I now feel so proud of the decision I made nearly a decade ago because I now work towards saving lives of both humans and the animals. Veterinary science added a different perspective to my career project and the opportunity to undertake my masters program at this prestigious university is an icing to my cake.
I am still far from where I wish to be but at least I finally see some light at the end of this gruesome career tunnel. Life has been a trial for me but I am always inspired by my own story. I never thought that the University of Edinburgh would be a part of this story and neither did I ever dream of writing about all this with a grin on my face. I know there are millions of young people out there thinking their dreams are not good enough. Just hold on a little longer and stay focused, your dream will eventually actualize into something phenomenal. Little did I know that the scientific investigation would turn out to be Epidemiology and that my passion to save lives of animals and people would turn out to be the modern-day One Health. This University has given me a lifeline and made me believe that my dream wasn’t that weird after all, I’m quite sure there is a place for every dream at this great institution.
“Dare to dream and yearn to learn to cross the boundary of fear and doctrines.”