Jessica May, Lead Vet of FirstVet UK has leaped from long days of physical vet practice in her home county of Herefordshire to city life and digital consultations. An inordinately large challenge but one she has embraced with passion and adjusted to with relative ease. Whilst human teli-medicine practices have been becoming more prominent of late, the vetinary world has taken time to catch up. FirstVet offers the UK's most comprehensive platform, at a time when we need it more than ever. With the eyes of the world focused on the NHS, its easy to forget that our fluffy friends still require regular medical attention and with vet practices closed this will be causing widespread panic. FirstVet unwittingly launched at a globally critical time and from what we hear it's one of the truly positive growth stories of the Pandemic so far.
When did you decide you wanted to become a Vet?
I decided that I wanted to become a vet when I was about five. This dream started to become more of a reality when I was about 15 as university applications were getting closer. It's the only thing I have ever wanted to be.
Have you always grown up around animals?
I was very fortunate to be raised on a farm on the beautiful Welsh Borders in Herefordshire. Some of my earliest memories are of helping my Mum at lambing time, and helping to move sheep and cattle from one field to the next when it was time for new pasture. Looking back, it was a very pragmatic way of learning the birds and bees.
You have recently started working for FirstVet – Tell us a little about what you do and what your job entails
Whilst looking for new ways to use my veterinary skills, I met one of the Founders of FirstVet, and joined them a year ago. FirstVet is Swedish a company, which was about to launch in the UK, Finland, Norway and Denmark. I joined the team to help grow the UK business. We provide a veterinary telemedicine service for pet owners. A vet in your pocket, if you like, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just like some human GP services.
My role as Lead Vet is primarily to support and grow the vet team. I have a weekly virtual meeting with the Lead Vets in the other countries in which we share our experiences and plan how best to develop the service. In the UK, we currently have a fantastic group of 15 experienced vets consulting on the platform. Part of my role is consulting on the platform, and I love talking to owners and helping them with their pet's concerns. We provide consultations for all animals, from cats and dogs to rabbits, horses and even chameleons! Owners really like being able to use the service wherever and whenever they need it, and find our guidance helpful and reassuring. Another part of my role is creating online content for our website so that owners can read more about their animal's health and wellbeing.
You now work in the city. Are you enjoying town life? How do you commute to work?
Having spent the last seven years working with horses in equine practice, living in the countryside, it was a big change to move to London. I studied in London, at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden, so it was great to be back! This time, I was seeing the city through a different lens. I had previously lived and worked in Hong Kong so I felt very at home. I live in West London and commute to our Holborn-based office by bike. Cycling is a great way to incorporate exercise with commuting at the beginning and end of each day, and I love taking a detour through one of London's beautiful green parks.
Now consult using the FV platform, do you miss physical practice?
Having a desk job has been a new experience for me. FirstVet is a different way of being a vet and I do miss working outside with horses everyday. In search of a new adventure, I was very grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust in The Gambia in December last year.
What has been the most challenging aspect to your job so far?
FirstVet is a start-up company. We are providing a new type of service for pet owners and the veterinary industry, so everyday is different. This is challenging but also very exciting!
What could you not live without in your professional life?
I love making hand-written to-do lists; it's an important part of being able to prioritise my tasks each day, and for this a great notebook is essential.
Favourite accessory to carry around day to day?
Apart from my laptop, I always have a notebook with me. I never know when I might need to jot an idea down, and it's very satisfying to be able to tick things off the list as soon as they're done.
Why do you use a notebook over digital notebook options?
My colleagues and I spend a lot of time using screens, whether it's a computer or phone, so I really like to be able to look away from my screen to use a paper based notebook. Using a paper notebook is also a much more personal experience.
Which is your favourite RL product?
I love the Otto notebook by Rollo London. It's smart and sophisticated, and the A5 size fits perfectly into my bag, but most importantly it's been made with the environment front and centre.
How are you coping with COVID-19 isolation and what have you been doing to keep busy?
During COVID-19 our FirstVet vets have extremely busy providing advice and guidance for pet owners, whilst everyone is having to stay at home. It has been very rewarding for us to able to provide this important service. During the past few weeks, I have also been enjoying re-painting my flat, cooking, and getting out for leg stretch each afternoon.