David Gilchrist finished his Primary School education at Silverstream Primary School in the Upper Hutt Valley of New Zealand in 1956, before being sent off to Nelson College for a 5-year boarding school experience, ending in 1961.
Next, in 1962, was one year at Victoria University of Wellington NZ completing the Medical Intermediate course, which purported to prepare one for a career in Medicine, Veterinary Science or Dentistry.
Unfortunately, NZ did not have a Veterinary Science faculty at that time, so a NZVSC Scholarship was received to enable study at the University of Queensland and the degree Bachelor of Veterinary Science (Honours) was awarded in 1967.
That scholarship paid all University fees, medical insurance, plus one return airfare to Australia, plus 9 Guineas a week ($18.90) "sustenance allowance", during the academic year only.
Full accommodation could be found in tropical Brisbane in student boarding houses for 5 Guineas ($10.50) per week. Mosquito nets were provided, but no air-conditioning! The balance of $8.40 per week was available for fares and other luxuries, but only while classes were held. During the 3 month long vacation no sustenance was provided at all.
Thus, the Kiwi Vet students at UQ had the honour of being the poorest of the poor and had to supplement their scholarships as best they could.
While pursuing his Veterinary degree, Dr Gilchrist also gained invaluable experience in such diverse occupations as taxi-driving, car-detailing, auto-repossession, service station management, door-to-door white goods retailing and hole-digging.
UQ also provided extra-curricular life-skills development options such as rugby-playing, beer drinking and party-going.
1968 was spent in a tiny town of Ruatoria on the East Coast of the North Island NZ. In those days the local vet was expected to be everything to everybody. Being isolated geographically, culturally and professionally, Dr Gilchrist had to learn many skills not taught at Veterinary School, including how to operate on animals totally alone. No assistant. No backup. No mentor.
Work mainly consisted of Beef Cattle procedures such as pregnancy testing and Tuberculosis and Brucellosis eradication. As most farmers rode horses and used working dogs to manage their cattle, Ruatoria provided many challenges and experiences for the solo-practitioner.
1969 saw a totally different environment with totally different challenges and rewards in the large town of Te Puke in the rich agricultural region of the Bay of Plenty. This was a multi-vet practice, with Dairy Cattle as the main animal, and the economics of milk production the main concern.
However, being in a more civilized part of NZ, there were colleagues and support staff to make life more comfortable. Townsfolk and their pets provided ample opportunities to develop diagnostic and surgical skills without the constraints of the economic value of the patient.
There were operating theatres for small animals, and proper sterilisation facilities, hospitalisation facilities, X-ray and other equipment.
All procedures were subsidised by the Dairy Company and the veterinarians were employees of the company.
The vets "invoiced" the farmers on a sliding scale from 25 cents to $6.
25c was the fee for a farm visit. The farmer paid nothing for miles travelled. The top fee was $6 for an on-farm caesarian on a cow. An "after-hours fee" was permitted to be charged. It was an additional 75cents. So it was common for a vet to be called out in the middle of the night for trivial matters.
Vets had to provide their own cars, fuel, and service and were reimbursed the princely sum of 10 cents per mile.The farmers owned the company, and they thought they owned the vets. A militant situation existed between the vets and the company.
After 1 year of being paid 36c per hour worked, Dr Gilchrist left NZ for Australia in 1970.
From 1970 to the present time, he opened and operated several veterinary practices, in Morningside, East Brisbane, Kallangur, Kippa Ring and Scarborough in the Brisbane area, and later in Mareeba, Cairns and Nambour. It was while he was operating the Kippa ring veterinary Clinic that he became interested in acupuncture for animals.
While on holidays in the USA, Dr Gilchrist visited a veterinary facility in Fullerton California that was for acupuncture treatments only. It was operated by a group of veterinarians with a common interest in acupuncture. It was a very stimulating experience because as a welcome guest, David was free to watch, ask questions, examine their records and interview their clients and examine the patients. On his return to Australia, he realised that to gain any knowledge about acupuncture he first needed to get some training. The only training in the 1970s in Australia was for human acupuncture, so he completed a 2 year diploma course which enabled him to start a human acupuncture practice on the Redcliffe Peninsula. From there he gradually introduced animal acupuncture to selected clients in his veterinary practice. To his astonishment he found that dogs and cats and horses responded to acupuncture even better than humans did. Good news travelled and so did his clients who arrived in ever increasing numbers, some coming from as far as Sydney, to find cures for for their pets and racing animals.
It wasn't long before curious vets began arriving at David's practice in Redcliffe, wanting to know what this acupuncture thing was all about. Some were happy to just refer their clients for treatment where conventional veterinary treatments failed to get a result, while others demanded to know how they could learn how to do acupuncture in their own practices. David was, in the 1970s the only veterinarian in Australia using animal acupuncture regularly for his clients animals and the results were so amazing that all 4 Brisbane TV channels, and most of the local newspapers arrived on his doorstep to do interviews. Australia wide exposure fuelled a huge interest in animal-acupuncture.
The animal acupuncture practice boomed and the late Dr Tom Hungerford (OBE BVSc FACVSc HAD Fellow of the University of Sydney), and foundation director of the Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science asked David to write some articles for publication in the PGF's regular newsletters to vets. Dr Tom noticed that the articles had stimulated enormous interest amongst the profession and he soon suggested that David should write a practical how-to-do-it manual for veterinarians, and that he would help getting it published and so the Manual of Acupuncture for Small Animals was conceived, and eventually published in 1981. Following the sellout of that book, Dr Tom, by now an enthusiastic supporter and mentor, suggested holding weekend seminars for busy veterinarians to introduce them to the techniques and tips for making a start in their own practices. Two more books followed, Greyhound Acupuncture (1984) and Equine Acupuncture (1988). Thus began a 40 year career of teaching animal-acupuncture in every state of Australia, New Zealand, UK and Belgium. Over the 40 years Dr Gilchrist has reduced seminar class sizes from a peak of about 40 to a maximum of 4 per class.