Fish vaccine pioneer urges young vets not to limit themselves

Fish vaccine pioneer urges young vets not to limit themselves

A Northern Ireland vet who helped develop a vaccine which changed the face of fish farming has told young graduates, qualifying can put them “on diverse paths you never even thought about”.

Dr Marian McLouglin, who helped create an alphavirus vaccine to protect against a disease which killed up to 50% of marine farmed Atlantic salmon, said: “My main advice to any young person who has a passion in any aspect of life including being a vet, is to follow that passion and your dreams and bravely walk through the doors of opportunity that arise.”

She told Northern Ireland Veterinary Today: “I never planned to be a fish vet, but I found and still find that path less travelled fascinating, challenging, and rewarding.”

Marian, who grew up on a small mixed farm near Crossgar, Co Down, also revealed her path to becoming a vet was not straightforward despite it being her childhood dream.

She explained: “I got very little encouragement to follow my dream as veterinary was not considered a ‘nice’ job for a young lady and I was told I was not clever enough, so I choose to major in Zoology at Queen’s, but realised that veterinary was my vocation.

“I stayed at Queen’s for two years and against all advice applied to UCD and was accepted into second year starting in September 1974. There were only two girls in my class, but I thrived during the course obtaining an Honours degree on the 28thJune 1978 and I have never regretted following my star.”

‘Believe in yourself’

Having identified the first ever Alphavirus in fish while heading a team for the Fish Diseases Unit, she set up her own company, Aquatic Veterinary Services, and spent the next 16 years travelling anywhere in the world where salmonid fish are farmed.

Her proudest moment came in 2017 when she brought 490 delegates from all around the world to Belfast for five days for 18th International Conference on Diseases of Fish & Shellfish.

Despite eyeing “full” retirement in 2025 she insists “there is no such thing as retirement just a change of priorities” and urged young vets not to be limited in their ambitions: “If you don’t ask you will never know what might be possible.

“Being a woman in a man’s world had its challenges but if you believe in yourself and your passions you can overcome most obstacles.”

Read the full Pathways interview with Dr Marian McLoughlin in the upcoming edition of Northern Ireland Veterinary Today