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COVID-19 made me do it - starting a new job in the time of a global health crisis

Vet Stories blog Covid-19
12 May 2020 BEVA Member

When I accepted a job to work at the Jockey Club School of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences at City University in Hong Kong, I expected a few challenges. The vet school is newly established and there have been widespread political protests since June 2019 with significant impacts on both students and teaching staff. However, no one anticipated what would follow...

I arrived in Hong Kong in January to start my role as Senior Research Associate, writing Problem Based Learning Scenarios for the vet school and assisting in undergraduate teaching. At this point the outbreak of a new respiratory disease in Wuhan was gaining increasing publicity and there was concern that the upcoming Chinese New Year would result in large scale movement of people as they visited family and returned home. The 2002-04 outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong is fresh in the memory and, maybe as a result, measures were quickly brought in to send school pupils and students home and encourage everyone to work from home where possible.

As the department set to work organising how to teach, and guide student’s learning, remotely, I tried to settle into my new role while working from home. Luckily, I had the opportunity to meet some of my new colleagues face to face before our communications moved to email and Zoom calls! I am also extremely fortunate that during my time in Hong Kong I have been living with one of my great friends (with whom I did my internship) and her husband. There are definitely some challenges to having 3 adults (and 2 cats!) working in a small 2 bedroom apartment - I have regularly had to hit the mute button on Zoom when one of the cats decides it is dinner time, and commando crawling across the floor of the living room (to avoid appearing in someone else’s conference call while wearing pyjamas) may also have featured!

My role, to write Problem Based Learning Scenarios, is new both to me and the university. Having only had minimal experience of PBL during my time at vet school I initially spent considerable time researching PBL methods and objectives, its use in different learning environments, and more specifically in veterinary education. Having familiarised myself with the process the next challenge was to develop appropriate clinical scenarios to cover learning objectives specific to different stages of the required modules. Only at that point does the writing process begin. I have always enjoyed writing and teaching and have found this process really satisfying but also, at times, challenging - particularly when trying to see scenarios through the eyes of students at differing stages of their veterinary education. The cases I have been working on have definitely helped me brush up on my physiology, and knowledge of non-equine species!

Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have moved into a role that I find hugely stimulating and enjoyable, and one that I am able to continue doing, relatively uninterrupted, during the current COVID-19 situation. I can’t wait to hear the feedback from the students when the scenarios I have written are used in the veterinary medicine course for the first time. It has been great experience, even in such an unusual period in all our lives and I am incredibly grateful to my fantastic colleagues and housemates for making my time in Hong Kong so enjoyable despite the challenges we all face at this time.