x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Trainee vets pick up tips from Emirati vet

There are only two practising Emirati veterinary surgeons in the UAE - but that looks set to change radically as new college and university courses are introduced.

Dr Majid Al Qassimi, one of the two practising Emirati veterinary surgeons in the UAE, gives his lecture to students of Al Ain Women’s College, telling students of some of the predicaments the job has left him in. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Dr Majid Al Qassimi, one of the two practising Emirati veterinary surgeons in the UAE, gives his lecture to students of Al Ain Women’s College, telling students of some of the predicaments the job has left him in. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

AL AIN // There are only two practising Emirati veterinary surgeons in the UAE - but that looks set to change radically as new college and university courses are introduced.

Dr Majid Al Qassimi, one of the two vets, met the next generation this week so he could pass on some invaluable help and advice.

"Always bring your field clothes," Dr Al Qassimi told students during a presentation at the Higher Colleges of Technology at Al Ain. "Because one day you're going to be at the office and you're going to be ready to finish up and pack up your laptop, and somebody's going to call you and tell you there's an emergency.

"And if you don't have your field clothes, you're just going to have to go out there."

At this point a slide showing Dr Al Qassimi wearing a pristine kandura while treating an Arabian oryx that was suffering from exhaustion appeared on the screens behind him.

"I said, 'OK, I'm going in my kandura, let's do it'." He paused, then added: "I didn't get the kandura dirty."

Dr Al Qassimi had to go abroad to become a vet because there were no courses available here when he finished school. Now, however, students are able to take an associate degree in veterinary science at the Higher Colleges of Technology, and there are plans to offer higher qualifications.

The first intake of students, who are training to become veterinary assistants, began work on the two-year course last September. The co-ed programme is based at the men's campus at Al Ain, and 12 women and five men have signed up.

They listened carefully to Dr Al Qassimi as he tackled prickly subjects such as, 'how do you handle a hedgehog'?

He also explained the importance of being in the right place, illustrating this with a slide showing a keeper at Al Ain Zoo standing behind a scimitar-horned oryx as it came round following sedation. The keeper had a firm grip on the animal's horns, holding them as if they were motorcycle handlebars.

"It's not a Harley-Davidson lookalike. You have to make sure you're holding on to him and pointing him away from you, because if they wake up and then charge you, you're going to get hurt."

He told the students that the highest priority for a vet was a readiness to take responsibility.

"You're in charge of the animal's welfare, you're in charge of your co-workers and you're in charge of yourself.

" If you don't pay attention or lose focus at any point something dangerous could happen."

Dr Al Qassimi, who worked at Al Ain Zoo before joining the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, recalled an occasion when he was confronted with a gazelle that had 30cm of intestine protruding from its abdomen.

"You know what I thought? 'Oh my goodness, where's the vet?' But I realised I was in charge and so I stepped up to the plate. I worked with the team, you can't do this alone.

"I had keepers, I had my vet assistant bring me equipment, and we did emergency surgery in the field. The animal survived.

"It was a really, really awesome experience, because when you get surgery going right you feel that you can take on the world."

One of the vet students listening to Dr Al Qassimi was Mazna Al Mutawea, 20, from Abu Dhabi. She said: "It's cool to hear the thoughts and experiences of a vet with the same nationality as us because there aren't many. It's good to hear about the things he's experienced and how he feels about it.

"I'm enjoying the course a lot. I'm learning new things every day about the profession and about myself, I'm learning new things about life."

Another student, Ahmed Rashed Al Marzooqi, 21, from Abu Dhabi, said: "I've liked animals since childhood and once I graduate I hope to open my own dairy farm and work there as a vet."

csimpson@thenational.ae