Dr. Renee Orange

Written by Dr. Renee Orange, Veterinarian, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Samoa.

I thought I could do a short bio on myself, so you know where I am coming from in my stories and why I write the way I do.

My name is Renee Jayne Avea-Maloamata Orange, people call me Renee, Nay or Ray. My father is from Auckland, New Zealand, my mother is from Savaii, Samoa. I used to live in the suburbs of Auckland with my family until I was 13, when we moved to Samoa to look after my grandmother, my mum’s mum. It was one of the best things that happened to me. It has been my home for the last 17 years, except for my 5 year stint in NZ at Massey University studying to be a vet. I currently have 2 dogs named Bear and Miss Mong, and a cat called Obi Wan-Kenobi.

Outside of work, I attend Peace Chapel church and assist with the youth ministry, I play social touch rugby (although I am not particularly gifted haha) and I enjoy reading and drawing. I sporadically go to the gym, when I have a friend to go with.

I got to cuddle a baby wombat briefly on a farm when I was on study tour in Australia in 2015.

I have been to Australia twice in my life – once when I was young, my parents took me and my brother to Brisbane for a holiday to the Gold Coast. We went to all the theme parks and swam every day. Most recently I was granted a study tour by the Commonwealth Veterinary Assocation as part of their assistance to relatively recently graduated vets in professional isolation. I spent time with vets and farmers in Sydney, Albury, Corryong, Walwa and Melbourne. It was a wonderful experience and I look forward to exploring more of Australia at some point.

I graduated in 2013, and came home early 2014. In hindsight, it would have been more beneficial to my career and to Samoa as a country if I had worked my first 2 years in a clinic in NZ or Australia. However, I was desperately homesick and there was a job opening for a vet with Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) in Samoa. I had done some work there during holidays and got to know the government vet, Agnes Meredith, and the team. I applied and got the job at MAF as an Animal Health Officer under Agnes in March of 2014.

I am not in this photo, but this is the wonderful team I joined in 2014. Since then, 3 of those pictured here have moved overseas, and we have added 5.

I thank God I had Agnes as my first superior. She taught me how to be a good vet, a good person and a good civil servant. I realized that it is all very well to have a degree but they don’t really teach you at Uni the real substance of working, which to me seems to be communication – effective communication with all the different types of people we encounter everyday.

Me (left) and Agnes (right) with our vet truck, MAF55, soon after I first joined in 2014.

Working for government has been an education, much less working at all. While working here I have improved my Samoan language skills, I have gained an insight into the lives of my colleagues, I have widened my knowledge and experience in management and finance. I have been privileged to work with expert vets, beef and sheep consultants, slaughter and meat supply consultants, lawyers and farmers.

Currently I am 1 of only 3 vets working in Samoa – apart from me there is our Japanese volunteer vet in Savaii and a vet at the companion animal clinic. My section is responsible for providing large animal veterinary services, along with regulating imports of animals or animal products in conjunction with the Quarantine Division. We are also responsible for assisting our government farms in maintaining high standards of health and production. Our paravets are the key people in Animal Health.

Agnes, Sone and Tom doing field surgery to correct a hernia in a calf. I was the anesthetist. This calf also showed signs of previous infection of the navel. It was a difficult surgery.

As I will mention in my upcoming stories, I am pretty idealistic. For Samoa I would one day like to see our farmers independent and empowered, production improved but also appropriate. I would like to see our livestock industries free of pre-conceived ideas, willing to be innovative and go to the next level. I would like to see MAF capable of fulfilling our duties in terms of protecting the industry from biological threats, of funding and carrying out relevant research.

For the veterinary service, I would like to see more education opportunities for our paravets and animal health officers, I would like to see more vets, more diagnostic capacity and more consultation with farmers, more partnership with farmers and vets overseas, more preventative measures than fire engines at the bottom of the hill.

And for myself, many things, which can be summed up perhaps by saying to not waste the efforts of vets before me who each contributed to building the fantastic team and resources we have available to my section today.

Here’s to bigger and better things in 2018.

Animal Health & Regulatory Section of the Livestock Divison, December 2016