Emilia Simonian

University of Cambridge
Faculty of Veterinary Sciences
Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine
Huys Scholar 2019

As a developing country, Armenia faces four major challenges – relatively weak human resources due to the lower standards of public higher education programs, a poorly developed public healthcare system, poverty and economic vulnerability. My ultimate goal is to help address these problems through the targeted use of my knowledge and experience in the scientific basis of veterinary medicine and clinical veterinary sciences. I am planning on doing this in the following ways.

Educating others. After learning from world leaders in the field of veterinary medicine, I will bring my knowledge and experience to Armenia to teach the coming generations of Armenian veterinary and medical professionals. I would like to also teach at schools in villages, where formal education on the fundamental principles of animal management, handling and veterinary medicine will result in future generations of farmers who are better educated and up to date with the recent advances in the field. They will know how to take preventive measures and suffer less from the loss of livestock due to issues such as poor welfare.

I would also love to use my experience in an accredited veterinary educational system to help improve the educational programs in veterinary schools in Armenia. This will lead to an increase in the quality of professionals produced and, thus, stronger human resources.

Veterinary medicine is one of the least common career paths taken by Armenians, especially Armenian women. I will introduce the field to students in schools across Armenia. This will serve two purposes. The first is to get more students with a passion for medicine interested in the field. The second is to change students’ attitude and mentality towards the career, showing them the potential it has to revolutionize not only the lives of animals but also those of the humans that interact with them on a daily basis.

Collaborating with professionals from other fields. Maintaining a healthy population is one of the best ways to strengthen human resources and decrease poverty and economic vulnerability in a country. This can best be achieved by taking a “One Health” approach, that is, working not only towards maintaining the health of people, but also towards maintaining the health of the animals and the environment that the population interacts with. I would love to work with the Armenian National Institute of Health to better establish the practice of collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, ecologists, scientists, farmers and members of other related fields in Armenia through various projects.

Developing Veterinary Medical Tourism. As the prices of veterinary and medical care increase rapidly in developed countries, more people from these places are considering medical tourism as a cheaper alternative, where they can take their pets/livestock to another country (usually a developing country) to receive the treatment they need at a more reasonable cost. One of my biggest goals is to create an agency that will collaborate with veterinary clinics and hospitals in Armenia to make veterinary medical tourism possible. For Armenia, this type of tourism will not only lead to economic growth, but also to the professional growth of the veterinarians and veterinary students that will work in the field as they will be able to gain experience with a wider array of animals, their disorders and their owners who will come from all over the world. It will also increase the demand for small animal veterinarians in the country, which will lead to the development of small animal medicine.

Contributing towards the care of stray animals. If successful, a portion of the profits of the abovementioned agency will go towards efforts to solve the stray animal problem in Armenia. This is not only a problem for the animals, but also for the people that live near them. Having no food or shelter, these animals spread disease and litter from communal waste areas. My ultimate goal is to help create no-kill, cage-free shelters, where they will be given a second chance at life by either being adopted and/or becoming therapeutic/service animals. However, this process must begin with a nationwide capture-neuter-release program, during which as many stray animals as possible will be sterilized in order to prevent the suffering of future generations of homeless animals. Then the issue of rescuing the animals off the streets can be addressed.

How will the education I receive help me achieve these goals. Being an intensely practical course, the veterinary medicine course at Cambridge not only teaches the core scientific knowledge and skills that I will need as a professional in the field, but also teaches how to process this information as a scientist and be able to use it to solve problems and to discover or create something new. In other words, it teaches that knowledge is important, but also that the facts we learn are only important if we know how to use them. This is encouraged through problem-based learning sessions, during which we are presented with real-world problems and must use the knowledge we gained from lectures and further reading to figure out strategies for solving them, practical classes during which we use our theoretical knowledge to predict what will happen in practice and finding out how accurate those predictions are, and through extramural studies placements, which I personally give great importance to.

Since Armenia’s economic growth currently relies greatly on agriculture, during my academic vacations I have already completed EMS placements at sheep and cattle farms in the UK, where I developed my understanding of the practice and economics of animal management systems and animal industries, as well as gained practical experience in as many aspects of veterinary work as possible, including the handling of animals, to achieve proficiency in routine techniques, and gained firsthand experience which is helping me develop as a professional.

One of the most exciting aspects of veterinary medicine is its rapid evolution. Staying current with the latest discoveries is an essential part of a veterinarian’s job. What studying at the University of Cambridge is teaching  me is not confined by the boundaries of the curriculum. We are highly encouraged to do further reading and read the “veterinary news” which we may discuss during supervisions (small group discussions with 2-4 students and a professor), which has allowed me to explore the field beyond the lecture material and discuss my perspectives and ideas with the world’s top scientists.

At Cambridge, during the first 2-3 years of study, future veterinarians and physicians are taught together, having in common a large portion of their lectures, practical sessions and supervisions. This is an opportunity for the students in these fields to share expertise and learn how to communicate, which later contributes to the adoption of a “One Health” approach in practice.

I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.