Ann Leighton -First NZ Woman Registered as a Veterinarian

Press Release – New Zealand Veterinary Association

The life and work of Annette Francis Mildred (Ann) Leighton (1919 – 2011 – aged 92 years) – New Zealand’s first woman graduate registered veterinarian will be celebrated tomorrow, Wednesday 26 October.25 October 2011

Ann Leighton -First NZ Woman Registered as a Veterinarian

The life and work of Annette Francis Mildred (Ann) Leighton (1919 – 2011 – aged 92 years) – New Zealand’s first woman graduate registered veterinarian will be celebrated tomorrow, Wednesday 26 October.

NZVA president, Dr Gavin Sinclair said her death is reminder to us how much the demographics of the veterinary profession have changed. Over 75% of graduates now are female compared to Ann’s day when women were very much in the minority. Today there are 1248 female and 1233 male practising vets.

“Reading Ann’s textbooks and her veterinary diary is a poignant reminder of how much veterinary science and the treatment of animals has changed, which today’s veterinarians and animal owners take so much for granted,” Dr Sinclair said.

“Ann worked as a veterinarian long before there were antibiotics and other commercially available treatments which we see these days. Her veterinary diary has recipes to treat all sorts of conditions like scours cordial, tonics for pigs, anaesthesia for horses, black pox treatments, worm treatments.

“These products were made up by veterinarians and contained products such as arsenic, turpentine, ginger, Epsom salts to name a few. Vaccination for common diseases like distemper in dogs which we take for granted now was very much in its infancy. Inoculation could be a hit and miss affair and could actually cause distemper in the dogs rather than preventing it.”

Ann was born Ann Rogers in Wellington and during her school years boarded at Iona College in Havelock North.

Her ambition was to work with animals and with remarkable perseverance (for those days) she entered Sydney University in March 1937 and graduated with a veterinary degree in 1942. Ann was the first woman veterinarian to be registered in New Zealand.

She initially worked for the Kaipara Veterinary Club. And after marrying veterinary colleague Jack Johnston, the couple practiced in South Auckland, Taranaki and the Waikato.

Ann always preferred large animal work and spent all of her professional life working in rural areas – very much a male veterinary domain until recent years.

Following the death of her husband, she returned to the Kaipara Veterinary Club, now Helensville Veterinary Services, for many years. She continued her work with farm animals and was involved in tuberculosis testing in the 1970s.

She married local farmer Eric Leighton, who shared a common interest in thoroughbred horses and the NZVA understands they were involved in the racing of horses .

Ann Leighton was a quiet and humble trail-blazer for women in what was once a male-dominated profession. Times have changed – veterinary graduates are now predominantly women and only one out of four graduates are male.

“It is important to acknowledge those people who have contributed so much to veterinary practice over the years, particularly in 2011 as we celebrate 250 years of veterinary practice,” Dr Sinclair concluded.

ENDS

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