Whether it is a word casually spoken or a bird falling right in your path, Dr Gloria Lee from Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Mandai) believes nothing is coincidental. We are always where we are meant to be.
“I believe in fate, totally. I take what this life has given me to do. There is no such thing as coincidence in my book.”
have you always wanted to be a vet?
I grew up in Kuching, Sarawak, surrounded by animals. My parents always had mongrels and would feed cats who happened to adopt us. They also raised ducks and quails. When I was in primary school, a classmate said I should be a vet since I had so many pets. The seed was sown.
“When I was around 8, we had a Calico cat (in my brother Stephen’s arms) who was very attached to me. She always tried to accompany me when I bathed!”
“When Calico had kittens, she would bring me her firstborn & I would stay by her side throughout the birth. There were no vets (& no sterilisation of pets) in Kuching until the 1980s.”
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR LOVE FOR BIRDS?
Like many young people, I was not prepared to practise my trade when I graduated so I took on a year of Zoology at another university. During that time, I chanced upon a baby dove fallen from its nest and brought it to a wildlife rehabilitation centre, Fauna Rehabilitation Centre, in the outskirts of Perth. It was a small privately-funded place, run by dedicated volunteers.
That was one of the turning points in my life.
I spent several years learning and helping the centre on a pro bono basis. I am grateful my parents were patient and allowed me the time to find myself.
“My bathroom was converted to a water bird room; I sometimes shared a shower with a Black Swan or a Cormorant. My spare bedroom transformed into an aviary where I fostered birds too young to be released to an outdoor aviary but needed to learn to fly.”
“Birds are much more challenging patients. The anatomy & physiology of a chicken is different to that of a parrot or a dove. They are 3 different species. It is like treating a domestic cat, a lion & a tiger.”
“Birds hide their illness well. Being so small, it’s virtually impossible to perform standard treatments. It’s all about prevention.”
what is the best part about being a vet?
I find it rewarding to help community animals and the people who are protecting them. It is also heartwarming to help the elderly and the poor give their sick companions a better quality of life.
how do you cope with the emotions & frustrations of work?
I don’t shut down and compartmentalise well and often bring my worries home. Knowing I have eased the suffering of an animal and meeting wonderful clients make things easier. Having an understanding spouse/partner is very important.
Several years ago, when my schedule became hectic, my husband Victor made a tough decision to semi-retire so that we can have some work-life balance. He comes to the clinic whenever I am at work and gives me sound advice whether I want to hear it or not. I respect him for that.
Gardening is a relaxing hobby I share with Victor who trained as a Horticulturist. I am the Hon Treasurer of the Singapore Gardening Society and he is the Hon Secretary. When all else fails, a good Scotch whisky always soothes my soul and spirit! Sorry to the Irish and Japanese but I do enjoy Guinness and sashimi too!
“Victor helps me see things in a different perspective. He takes care of other parts of my life so I don’t have anything else to worry about. My mom absolutely adores him. She never calls me – always him!”
tell us more about your pets
I have adopted dozens of animals in my life. We currently have 3 Scottish Terriers named Chivas, Regal, Macallan and 6 adopted stray cats. We gave all of them “alcoholic names”!
Siblings Miguel, Cuervo & Sake rescued as kittens.
Miguel, Sake & Cuervo now!
Sake, had a glass too many?
JD (Jack Daniels) as a kitten & now, Muscat & Half Pint!
what advice would you give aspiring vets?
It is not enough to have a love for animals.
A love for animals is not going to see you through 12-hour work days and clients who expect you to save their already dying pets. Many young vets are casualties of burn-out. They stop working in clinics because they have become disillusioned.
You need a deep-seated compassion for an animal’s right to quality of life and quality care. You need to accept that you cannot save every one of them.
Our vets at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Mandai), formerly AMK Veterinary Surgery: Dr Gloria Lee with King Billy, Dr Kitty Huang with Joey, Dr Jade Lim with Pom Pom & Gusto, Dr Tricia Ling with Sunshine & Skye, Ming Ming the resident cat rescued by Dr Kitty.
The Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Mandai) family, formerly AMK Veterinary Surgery,at Dr Tricia Ling’s wedding – Ai Lin, Xue Ting, Cheriel, Dr Teng Yi Wei, Melissa, John, Dr Kitty Huang, Dr Tricia Ling, Dr Gloria Lee, Shu Yin (now at MP Bedok), Dr Jade Lim, Jasmine.
“I will continue to build & strengthen my healthcare team & look after their career welfare. They are my second family.”