Even accidents provide opportunity

An accident steered Sam Franklin into a life of academia, and she has never looked back. 

Sam wanted to be a vet from as young as 11 and studied a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) at the University of Bristol, in the UK. She was the first in her family to attend university and the first student from her school (in the Channel Islands) to study veterinary science.  

After graduation she worked for four years in mixed animal practice.  

Then life threw her a curveball. Following a car accident, she was unable to continue her work in private practice and so returned to the University of Bristol to undertake a PhD on upper airway collapse in horses. From that time, academia instead took centre-stage, and changed the course of her career. 

In the lead up to this year’s International Women’s Day we are getting to know more about Sam and her work. 

No longer in private practice, Sam became a lecturer in equine sports medicine at the University of Bristol, where she ran the Equine Sports Medicine Centre for 11 years. 

Then she moved to Australia and joined the new veterinary school at the University of Adelaide in 2010, as a senior lecturer in veterinary physiology. 

She has continued to teach students in veterinary science, animal science and, most recently, in veterinary technology. In addition, she has held several leadership roles, and is currently the head of the Department of Equine Health and Performance. 

Her clinical and research interests continue to relate to equine sports medicine, with an overall aim to enhance the welfare of racing and performance horses through accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of performance-limiting disorders. 

Horses’ athletic performance can be impacted by numerous conditions and her work encompasses three main areas – equine respiratory disorders including upper airway obstructions and equine asthma; exercise-associated cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death; and gastric ulceration. 

The discipline of Equine Sports Medicine is a relatively new but rapidly growing discipline and Sam is right at the forefront. 

She has supervised 37 honours, masters, and PhD students as well as lectured on equine sports medicine topics at scientific conferences and continuing education events throughout the world. And she has been published widely in academic journals and veterinary textbooks. 

Sam became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (equine) by examination in 2015, and an RCVS Specialist in Equine Medicine (Sports Medicine) in 2016. She is also an Australian Registered Specialist in Equine Sports Medicine and Member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVSc).  

She is also an official veterinarian for the Federation Equistre International (FEI) in the disciplines of eventing and equestrian vaulting and has worked at the Adelaide 3-day event as well as at National and State Vaulting Championships. 

Believe it or not, that’s not all.

Sam has sat on several international specialist panels to review and formulate recommendations in relation to equine respiratory disorders. She is currently an international committee member for the International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP), which holds quadrennial meetings, and was responsible for organising the 2018 meeting in Australia.

She is also a founding member of the ANZCVSc chapter on Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Chapter, working towards certification of Australian and New Zealand Specialists in Veterinary Sports Medicine.


Sam Franklin on a horse

So, what’s her favourite part of working in STEM and her chosen field? 

My work as a clinical academic has enabled me to combine a love of clinical work, research, and teaching.  I enjoy asking questions and seeking answers to the challenges that we face within the veterinary profession.  I enjoy collaborating in a team with students and experts in other disciplines, including engineering and human health, to use our combined knowledge to solve problems and improve animal welfare as a result. 

If she could give her younger self some advice about study and working life, what might it be? 

Believe in yourself, keep an open mind, and be kind to yourself when the going gets tough. 

What is something she is proud to have achieved? 

I am proud of my work to develop the world’s first overground endoscope. This is basically a small camera that is positioned in the horse’s upper airways while they are exercising and enables a definitive diagnosis of upper airway collapse to be made during ridden exercise.

This technology has revolutionised the way we diagnose dynamic airway collapse in horses and is now considered the gold standard technique. Its use has greatly enhanced the welfare of racing and performance horses that are no longer undergoing unnecessary or inappropriate procedures based on a “best guess” estimate from a resting examination. 

I am also incredibly proud of my two children who moved from the UK to Australia when they were four and seven years old. My eldest is just about to embark on her own career journey – studying medicine at Flinders University, and my youngest is in year 10 with aspirations to be an aerospace engineer or pilot. 

With such a busy load, what are her favourite hobbies and ways to unwind? 

As might be expected of a vet, I have a menagerie of animals including four dogs, one cat, two horses and nine chickens. I also enjoy riding or walking through the vineyards in the Barossa to relax. And I try and do yoga and swim to keep fit.  

I also enjoy cooking and love nothing more than an afternoon/evening of good food and wine with friends.  

When I get the time, I am an avid reader of psychological thrillers, but I also love trashy tv shows.

And once the world opens up again, I am looking forward to travelling once more. 

Wherever you go Sam, please come back. Your passion and expertise are gold.

Tagged in Women in STEM, School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Research, Veterinary Medicine, Animal Science