Hi Guy! Firstly, a big congrats on your pioneering surgery. Could you tell us a little more about it?
Well, in simple terms, Gigha (a dog) got a small cut in her elbow while out on a walk. Unfortunately, this then got infected with a nasty bacteria which was resistant to antibiotics. As such, she lost quite a lot of skin and tissue to the infection. It really shows how nasty and even life-threatening small cuts can be when antibiotics don’t work.
To fight the infection, we had to cut away the diseased skin to have any chance of fighting it. At the time she was very close to developing septicemia, going into shock and dying. At one point even it looked like she may even lose her leg. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case, but we were left with quite a large hole that we had to repair. Unfortunately, because of its size and other factors, traditional skin grafts weren’t suitable, so we had to look at alternatives.
Tilapia fish grafts have previously been used in humans and wildlife to treat severe burns, wounds that by their very nature were large in size and very deep, so began the discussion on whether the same technique could be used in a very different type of wound. And after a lot of late night and early morning phone calls with the University of California, together we came up with a new technique. The curious thing about tilapia is that as well as being naturally antiseptic, they also provide a pain-relieving effect and donate collagen to the skin that is being healed, allowing it to heal quicker. Since the grafts hadn’t been used in dogs before, and for this type of wound a few alterations had to be made from the burn method. We all waited with baited breath to see if it would work. Thankfully it did, and Gigha is now completely back to normal.
Have you always wanted to be a veterinary surgeon? How did you first get into it?
Well actually I originally wanted to become a human surgeon. I always had an interest in biology and science; honestly, I always found medical programs on TV fascinating. Even at an early age I would read magazines and news articles on the latest in medicine. It was only after I came to Skeldale Veterinary Centre and worked alongside Peter Wright (The Yorkshire Vet) while I was doing my A-levels that I switched over (Peter still proudly tells the story on how he converted me – I’ve known Peter since I was around 7 years old and he has been my mentor for many years). I found the greater variety of cases and problems in veterinary surgery invigorating and even to this day I don’t get bored
Talk us through a typical day in the life of Dr Killick.
Well there is no ‘typical day’ that I’ve come across yet! However, most days I begin the morning in our wards, checking our patents and planning the surgical procedures of the day. These are usually completed by the afternoon where it usually becomes a free for all. I may get asked for a second opinion on a case from my colleagues. We have emergencies coming in and out on a fairly regular basis which also keeps me on my toes. I also see surgical cases for pre- and post-op checks in the afternoon.
What particular event stands out for you the most in the span of your career to date (this operation aside)?
Having to treat an animal that had been hit by a car in the middle of a motorway. The animal was too unstable to move and I had to have a police escort to get me through the traffic. Having not only the police and fire service but also all the people caught in the traffic watch me work was quite a daunting experience
What’s your favourite part about what you do?
As cheesy as it sounds: making animals better. there is no better feeling that seeing an animal that came in near death’s door walk back out fit and well
What advice would you offer someone hoping to follow the same career path as you?
Apart from working hard at school, work experience. As wide a variety as possible with as many different types of animals. That’s how universities tell the difference between people who want to become a vet just because they like animals, and those who are passionate about the field. Getting into uni is very competitive and its very important to stand out. It also gives you a wide knowledge base to work from right through your career. It’s amazing how little things you learn that seem so inconsequential become really important even years down the line.