10 Questions with our Clinical Development Managers
Sara Dunne, Joao Koehler and Orly Simkin – who are all vets – now spend their 9 to 5 helping other vets and vet practices thrive.
Why did you want to become a veterinarian?
Orly: When I was a child, my sister (who is five years younger than me) got chicken pox, and I diagnosed it. This was my first diagnosis, and it sparked an interest in medicine. I’ve always been drawn to working with animals so it made sense to put the two together in what has turned out to be a rewarding career.
What was your journey to becoming a vet?
Joao: I’m from Portugal, and my school grades were not strong enough to get into a veterinary medicine programme. So, when I first went to university, I studied towards an aquatic science degree. I did two years of that course, which closely mirrored the first two years of veterinary medicine, and then transferred across.
Orly: In high school, I was fortunate to be in a class of highly-driven kids. We were the nerds of my year – but that didn’t matter because as a class, we all wanted to achieve. We challenged each other, always competing for that next accolade. My class turned out 10 medical doctors, five engineers, three actuarial scientists and two vets. Today, I can see how lucky I was to be in that environment. That’s why I feel strongly about motivating people I work with. I personally know how motivation can have a positive effect on someone.
Sara: I didn’t get any Vet School offers the first time round, but I didn’t want to do anything else. I also didn’t quite get the grade in my last biology A level module – microbiology. This meant I didn’t get the grades I needed to apply to Vet School again so I took a year out, travelled the world, worked in a vet practice and worked for a local dog boarding kennels before re-taking the exam. When I took microbiology the second time, I got 97% so I applied to Vet Schools the following year, finally choosing Edinburgh for my studies.
(Sara) I enjoy seeing the positive impact I can make and helping people to enjoy practice life. As a company, we are committed to delivering innovative and world-class clinical care, and I love working closely with Joint Venture Partners and their teams to help build a culture of clinical excellence.
What was your first vet job like?
Joao: To graduate, I was required to complete a nine-month internship after my university classes finished. I did three months at a clinic in Portugal and then came to the UK where I did six months in a referral centre in the Northwest. I ended up staying there for three years. I learned from some of the best vets in the country and made some good friends. It was a very enriching experience.
Orly: After graduating from vet school, I had a three-month gap before starting my Internship so I decided to take some shifts at an out-of-hours hospital. I was the only vet on duty and only had the help of one trained lay person as veterinary nurses were still very rare in South Africa at the time. One case I remember was a caesarean on a Poodle who had five pups. I had only ever watched one caesarean at vet school. I was terrified! Everything went well, but I needed to reassure myself so I called the owner the next day to see how they were doing. The client was so impressed I had called, she told the referring practice, and that night, the principal from that practice came into the hospital and offered me a job. That was my first job offer.
Sara: I worked for a small-animal practice with multiple branches in south Devon. It was a very supportive environment, and I had some great mentors. Besides helping me develop my medicine and surgery skills, they also helped me to learn business acumen, which I’m grateful for.
What attracted you to your role at Vets4Pets?
Joao: I wanted to combine the clinical aspects of being a vet with the business aspects of running a practice. I’ve completed an MBA, and I’m now completing a Veterinary Business Management certificate via Liverpool University. This role meets these two interests of mine.
Orly: After spending 23 years in practice, I felt it was time to give something back to the profession. I wasn’t happy about so many young vets leaving the profession, and I felt I needed to do something about that. This role does just that.
What has it been like transitioning into an office-based role?
Sara: It’s been a steep learning curve for me to learn how to manage my time. I’ve gone from being time managed in practice every 15 minutes to now creating my own diary plan. It’s been hard, but it’s getting easier, and I love my job so it makes the challenge rewarding.
What does your role as a Clinical Development Manager involve?
Orly: We’re the link between commercial success and clinical excellence.
Joao: We work hard to become trusted partners who provide a wide range of support wherever it’s needed.
Sara: We share best practices, lessons learned, troubleshoot and provide, or signpost, expert advice. It’s a very wide-ranging role.
(Orly) One case I remember was a caesarean on a Poodle who had five pups. I had only ever watched one caesarean at vet school. I was terrified! Everything went well, but I needed to reassure myself so I called the owner the next day to see how they were doing. The client was so impressed I had called, she told the referring practice, and that night, the principal from that practice came into the hospital and offered me a job. That was my first job offer.
What do you like most about your job?
Joao: For me, I really enjoy building relationships and being a part of a practice’s success. I find that very rewarding.
Orly: I love interacting with practice colleagues and helping them to achieve what they wanted to achieve when they entered the profession. I enjoy helping them tackle their problems and steering them to find their own solutions
Sara: I enjoy seeing the positive impact I can make and helping people to enjoy practice life. As a company, we are committed to delivering innovative and world-class clinical care, and I love working closely with Joint Venture Partners and their teams to help build a culture of clinical excellence.
Do you have any pets?
Sara: I have two rescue dogs; a lurcher and a collie cross.
Joao: I have a 3-legged guinea pig and a border collie.
Are you scared of any animals?
What’s your favourite city?