Growing up with a family connection to the poultry industry has seen veterinarian Dr Karen Gao develop a successful career as a poultry veterinarian whilst completing a PhD into Spotty Liver Disease in laying hens.
“It probably started with my father being a poultry veterinarian back in China before our family migrated to Australia. Then during my fourth year in veterinary school, I met Associate Professor Peter Groves, who was the poultry lecturer at the University of Sydney.”
“Peter had been very nurturing after I expressed my interest in learning more about the Australian poultry industry. I was lucky to be able to attend a poultry conference at the time and to meet the industry, which was very welcoming to young people. I was fortunate enough to work for Peter after graduation as a poultry veterinarian and also start my PhD candidature,” shared Dr Gao.
Health and welfare of commercial poultry
In her work as a poultry veterinarian, Dr Gao provides veterinary advice to commercial poultry companies, managing the health and welfare of commercial poultry flocks, including broiler chickens, laying hens, ducks, quails and occasionally fancy birds species. “This involves regular farm visits and communication with different industry stakeholders, ranging from the government, to regulatory bodies, industry bodies, companies, laboratories, farmers and the public.”
“Being an industry veterinarian, it is very different to working in a veterinary practice. Thanks to the great mentorship and support I received from many industry people, including from Peter, over time I’ve become confident and proud of my own professional progress working as a poultry vet,” said Dr Gao.
In addition to her poultry industry consulting work, Dr Gao has been involved with the Australasian Veterinary Poultry Association (AVPA), including working as their Honorary Secretary from 2017 to 2020.
Floristry a creative outlet
Making time for yourself amongst a busy career is very important advice from Dr Gao, who has developed a creative outlet outside her veterinary work to help maintain a positive work-life balance to avoid the pitfalls of overwork and burnout.
“I think most people entering a new profession would have made the same mistake, where naturally we would invest all of our energy into our work-life until we get burnt out, I was the same. I needed an outlet and that’s when I started a part-time floristry course, something completely different to my professional career but that I have always enjoyed.”
“The floristry has brought me great pleasure, and I came to the realisation that I could still do anything if I want to, it’s never too busy or too late. It also became clear to me that I am where I am and doing what I do as a poultry veterinarian, because I enjoy it and not because I have to do it!” said Dr Gao.
Find more information about pursuing a career as a veterinarian on the Australian Veterinary Association’s website.