Case Notes from Beyond the Clinic: equine expert Maty on pre-purchase examinations and personal protective equipment

The group head for equine diagnostic imaging at IVC Evidensia, Maty Looijen shares and discusses the significance of both pre-purchase examinations and personal protective equipment in equine ambulatory practice. Maty emphasises the importance of quality imaging, seeking help when needed, and understanding radiation safety. She offers valuable advice to early-career veterinary professionals and sheds light on her passion for supporting colleagues in the field.

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Could you tell us about yourself and your role with IVC Evidensia?

I'm an imaging specialist, mainly focused on equine care. I worked for IVC Evidensia as an equine vet until 2019 then went to the UK for my residency and returned to IVC Evidensia to develop our own specialised equine imaging department, which was an exciting opportunity!

I’m now the group head for equine diagnostic imaging. On a day-to-day basis, I work partly in an equine clinic and the rest of the time remotely reading and reporting MRIs, CTs, etc. I do clinical work as an equine vet, predominantly in orthopaedics to keep a practical approach to my imaging. I live in the Netherlands but work with UK and Dutch clinics that are part of the IVC Evidensia network.

Can you tell us more about your career journey?

I've been a vet for 11 years now. After I graduated, I completed an internship in Germany, gaining a range of experience and figuring out what I wanted to do with equine medicine. After the internship, I worked at another German clinic near Düsseldorf for two years. This job was focused on orthopaedics and emergencies. I saw a lot of interesting cases and started to like imaging more, and I tried to apply for residencies, which wasn't easy.

I went back to the Netherlands after my job in Germany and worked in first opinion practice, where I had an amazing time. I worked very hard and learned a lot. Eventually, I was invited to work for an orthopaedic clinic, focusing on lameness and pre-purchase examinations. I still applied for residencies and finally, I got one! I moved to the UK for my residency in large animal diagnostic imaging, passed my exams in 2023, and moved back to Holland to return to IVC Evidensia. We developed a plan to centralise imaging reports, which has been a great success. Now, we have five big clinics we're reading for, offering CPD and advisory work for first opinion practices. We’re very busy!

Your episode of the podcast is about equine radiography and PPE. Could you tell us why this topic is important to you?

I'm very passionate about radiation safety. I gave a talk at the IVC Evidensia Graduate Congress because many people, including veterinary professionals, don’t understand the risks of radiation and how to protect themselves effectively. I had to learn a lot about physics during my residency, and I became very interested in how radiation works and how to measure its effects. That's why I wanted to discuss this topic.

I think sometimes people get really scared of radiation, but they don't know what is actually risky and what is not. I hope that by providing education, we can make people understand the real risks, and make them feel more confident in their decision-making when it comes to dealing with radiation.

What key message would you hope listeners to your episode of the podcast will take away?

We explored two main themes because PPE doesn't only mean personal protective wear, it also means pre-purchase examinations!

I really like prepurchase examinations but there can be apprehension from equine vets when it comes to performing them and my main message is: don't be afraid, just do your job well. Think about what you're doing, take your time, make sure you have good-quality images, and seek help if you're not sure. For vets within IVC Evidensia, we're here for support, so feel free to ask for help. Consider what could go wrong and how you can address it beforehand. Don't make diagnoses before you've had the proper time and patience to look at it. That's the pre-purchase examination take-home message!

For the radiation safety side, first, always be careful and protect yourself from any radiation exposure. Remember, there are lots of rules and regulations in this area for a reason: they are there to protect you. If you follow these rules and apply them in your day-to-day work, you'll be doing a good job and will be well-protected. So, bear in mind those rules and regulations, take care of you, but also don't be too afraid.

What are you proudest of achieving in your career so far?

I dreamed of becoming a radiologist for quite a while and achieving that was a big dream come true. It took me six years to get a residency, but it was worth it.

What’s coming up for you in the future?

We are focused on professionalising our new equine imaging department. We want to be more accessible to field vets, making it easier for them to contact us for help without feeling awkward. This connection is important to me because I remember that experience as a young vet, and I want to provide the support I didn't always have.

What advice would you give to early-career veterinary professionals?

Hang in there and don't quit! Find out what you love and go for it. Being a vet is a passionate profession, so don't give up when things get hard. It's an amazing profession, and it took me 10 years to figure out what I wanted and finally achieve it. I am very happy with my job and love what I do every day!

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

I walk and hike a lot with my dog. I spend time with family and friends, which I didn't have much time for before and I hope to start horse riding again once my horse is back to full health!