Dr Dylan Clements knew he wanted to be a vet since he was a young boy and his beloved pet cat broke its leg.
It was the ’70s and his parents’ friends thought they were mad for forking out £30 for the procedure to bring him back to health. But Dylan’s mind was made up – one day he would save animals too, and he never wavered.
Now he is one of the UK’s foremost orthopaedic veterinary surgeons, researchers and lecturers based at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and has just been honoured with the prestigious Simon Award. He said: “It’s a privilege to have a job where I get to treat dogs and cats. I feel very lucky.”
The award, named after a Golden Retriever guide dog whose sight was restored from blindness by pioneering veterinary surgery, recognises outstanding contributions to the field. Dylan was at his desk working when he discovered he had won. He says he is humbled to think that anyone would think his years of work would be worthy of recognition. “It’s really a reflection of the many brilliant minds I’ve been lucky to work with,” he said.
Dylan, 45, wears many hats at the d Edinburgh vet school, with roles as a practising clinician, senior lecturer in small animal surgery and a researcher into the genetic basis and functional aspects of dog osteoarthritis as well as leading the largest long-term study of canine health in the world.
He has worked at the school for 11 years and considers himself very lucky to be in the position he is in. He said: “I get to teach some of the brightest students in the country who are very enthuaustic. I also supervise some very talented PhD students who ask very important research questions and who have dedicated their lives to helping small animals.
“I can never remember ever wanting to do anything else. My parents told me it started with our pet cat when I was very young – I think I just empathised with it so much.
“I work in a branch of veterinary medicine that is incredibly fulfilling because my job is to try to fix animals in pain or make them better. Thats what drives us, the reward is seeing the patient recover.”
The most difficult cases Dylan has treated are the most rewarding. He has carried out countless joint replacement surgeries: “Some of these dogs have never known a life without pain and we can restore nearly normal function. Owners tell us that we’ve given them back their dogs.”
At home Dylan’s pet cat Skippy, nine, rules the roost. “She’s currently involved in a turf war with a neighbour’s cat. She thinks she’s a dog and just follows me around all the time. She’s a wonderful companion,” he said.
He has no plans to take his talents elsewhere and praises Edinburgh University for its world-class staff and students who explore ideas. “There is no better place for me.”