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Checking in with ... Kenneth Boey

Tell me a little about where you’re from.

I’m from Singapore! It’s a tiny island country in Southeast Asia only four times the size of St. Kitts but with 5.7 million people.

 

That’s A LOT of people for such a small island.

Definitely. It’s also known to be one of the world's most expensive city.

 

And now I’ve learned something new. So how’d you go from Singapore to St. Kitts?

I was in my final year of the Veterinary Technology program at Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, and I had the opportunity of being the first group of Singaporean students to complete our final year internship at Ross Vet.

 

Did you have any concerns about moving to St. Kitts?

Oh, many – distance from home, major cultural differences, the fact that I'm an extreme "city person," etc.

 

How’d you overcome those worries?

I look at it as getting to be in touch with my love for planes and flying! And I text and Skype my family and friends very often. I do miss the food back home, though. I cook as much as I can on island for the familiar flavors.

 

So what did you do during your internship?

I worked with a visiting postdoctoral research fellow from Edinburgh on the seroprevalence and genetic diversity of Toxoplasma gondii on the island, mainly working on free-ranging chickens from the island.

Through the research internship I gained experience in serological (ELISA) and molecular (qPCR) techniques, as well as pathology and laboratory animal science. The research has since been published in 2017, and it was my first time co-authoring a paper.

 

That’s incredible. So did you go straight from the internship to pursuing your DVM?

Actually, no. All male citizens and permanent residents in Singapore are required to serve National Service for 2 years in either the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Civil Defense Force, or Singapore Police Force. Most end up in the Army branch of the SAF, which was where I spent my 2 years. My last post was being an instructor in Basic Military Training (Service) with the rank of 3rd Sergeant.

 

I was told you still managed to pursue your MSc in One Health during your service, though.

I did. It was difficult due to the fact laptops are prohibited in military camps. So I had to make do with posting graded discussions using my cell phone and completing assignments when I was home over the weekends. But it was all worth it.

 

Despite all that, one of your MSc studies was presented at a conference in Italy, correct? Mind talking about that?

My abstract was accepted as a platform (oral) presentation at the European Leptospirosis Society meeting in Alghero, Italy held in May 2018. I did not personally attend the conference, but I'm grateful a postdoctoral research fellow presented the research on my behalf.

I will be presenting a poster at the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) National Meeting held in Baltimore, MD in October 2018, which is tied to another project by the same research team.

 

Well congrats! And now you’re back pursuing your DVM.

Yes. I was very interested in the infectious diseases research done at Ross Vet, which was also a reason I pursued the MSc in One Health.

Plus, Ross Vet has signed MOUs with several institutions in Singapore, including my alma mater, which provides direct pathway programs into the DVM program at Ross Vet. Most Singaporeans pursue veterinary studies in Australia, New Zealand or the UK, but those are usually at least 5 years in duration. Doing it at Ross Vet meant I would save time, in addition to it being an accelerated program, and I really liked that aspect.

 

Looking back, are you happy with the decision to attend Ross Vet?

Extremely! Every year we get several research interns from Singapore, and I'm glad they're able to get this experience, as well, and have the option of coming back for their DVM, which I highly recommend.

 

What’s been your favorite thing about Ross Vet?

What will always be my favorite is how dedicated the professors are and how much they want the students to succeed. The number and kind of opportunities they provide surpasses what I would get back home. They treat students as future colleagues, and even when I was just a research intern I could feel their passion for teaching and commitment to impart their wealth of knowledge to the next generation.

 

It seems like you have a true passion for research.

Definitely, especially for public health. “Public health” is an extremely broad term and encompasses many aspects, such as infectious/non-infectious disease prevention and control, food safety, conservation medicine, public policy and regulation, disaster relief, etc.

I happen to be fascinated by infectious disease research (parasitology, bacteriology, virology) due to my experiences at Ross Vet, and I wish to couple that with my interest in laboratory animal/comparative medicine using animal models of human infectious diseases.

 

So what is your long-term goal for your career?

Ultimately, I hope to use my knowledge base as a veterinarian to help humans and animals alike.

I entered vet school having different career goals than most other students, which is to pursue the path of a laboratory animal veterinarian. My goal is to be involved in the biomedical research field and contribute to the improvement of human and animal health, be it directly or indirectly. However, having said that, I'm still keeping my options open as we will never truly know what we will end up doing.