Building Dreams… Meet Dr Cathy Warburton!

Cathy wrote about why someone would need a wellbeing coach on our blog in December 2016. Recently I caught up with Cathy and found out what she’s been doing in both work and play. I discovered that Cathy is a huge giver; she believes that personal achievements are great, but helping others whilst growing yourself is even better.

The first hint I got about Cathy’s giving nature was when I asked Cathy to list the organisations she’s been involved with, her awards and acknowledgements. Her answer says it all: “This is not what you probably are looking for here, but I am and have been an active volunteer over many years – a breast-feeding counsellor, English tutor, facilitator of secular ethics classes for primary school kids, helped out with organisations associated with my kids and currently am a volunteer humanist pastoral carer at a major Melbourne hospital and, of course, an AVA new graduate mentor.”

She finished by stating “Achievements are great – but helping others whilst growing yourself is even better 😊”

I then asked her to tell our readers about her wellbeing business Make Headway, and how it had evolved over recent years.

She answered “Make Headway is focused on advancing veterinary mental health and well-being. Happy, healthy, self-aware veterinary professionals build and evolve careers that are personally meaningful, and congruent with their strengths and interests. This is the pathway to sustainable success and fulfilment – both for the individual and the team they are part of.  Myself and Cheryl Fry are both veterinary coaches and we provide individual and small group coaching and education – facilitating greater self-knowledge and development of the non-technical competencies which support us to effectively utilize our clinical skills and knowledge – competencies such as mindset, emotional intelligence, self-care skills, resilience, confidence and interpersonal communication. The business is continuing to grow as more and more people understand the link between well-being, engagement and success”.

We then moved on to the subject of what makes a great workplace.

Cathy considers that “a great workplace always starts with great leaders. We need leaders that support, encourage, empower and connect their teams. Leaders who understand that people’s life outside work is also important. Teams whose opinions are valued, who are trusted, given responsibility and shown appreciation will provide a great service to animals and clients. Combine this with sensible long-term financial decisions and you have a recipe for success.”

I asked Cathy whether, in her opinion, veterinary students receive adequate training in non-clinical “life” skills before they graduate, and what advice she would give new graduates?

“In a word, no! But, there is a growing emphasis on these generic, non-veterinary skills in our vet degrees – and this will help to tackle the mental health problems we have in the industry. We want veterinary students to understand the importance of creating healthy patterns of thinking and living as soon as they start their degree. Leading a healthy, balanced life and growing your non-technical competencies is way more important than getting a HD in anatomy or parasitology!

For new graduates, yes – you need to be able to do stuff and know where to find the information you need – but your ability to communicate with clients and your colleagues, to look after yourself and to recover when things go awry is key. Keep growing in these areas.

And last but definitely not least, what does Cathy do for fun and how does she spend her days off?

“I love being in nature. I do a spot of eco-wildlife tour-guiding for fun.

I love dinner with my family and cuppas or bike-rides with the girls.

I love travelling.

I love sitting in bed on a weekend morning, chatting with my husband, reading the paper and drinking a cup of tea. Actually, I love tea – it has to be brewed in a pot and quite milky. A tea bag doesn’t cut it.

Doing yoga or mindfully listening to music is also guaranteed to lift my mood.

The best day off for me is going for a walk in the bush with family or friends and seeing whether I can spot a koala or work out what bird is calling. The day should end in a café or pub because I also love food (and did I mention that I love tea?). If I can string a few of these days together in a row – that is heaven”

VetPrac is fortunate to have Cathy as an educator at the Navigating Difficult Clinical Encounters Conference on October 15-17, 2018, but, as you can see from her words, Cathy has so much more to offer than just knowledge. Why not come along and experience Cathy’s giving nature first hand. You won’t regret it! Register here.

PS VetPrac staff please remember to pack a tea pot and loose tea leaves in the hospitality kit!!!

Dr Cathy Warburton can be contacted at or

Written by Alison Caiafa

Have You Ever Had A Client Ignore You?

“I recall a clinical case where two older, no-nonsense, sensible looking ladies presented a paraplegic dachshund – let’s call this dog Fritz (not an uncommon name for a male Dachy). After taking a history and doing a physical examination, I spoke to them about the severity of the presentation and that we needed to consider work-up and probably surgery if we wanted Fritz to walk again. The ladies butted in and said oh no, that is not what our doggie chiropractor, Harry, said. Harry did some work on Fritz and said we should start swimming him and it will all be fine. Do you know Harry they said? He is a fine man and a wonderful chiropractor. Everybody loves him. Fritz loves him.

I was incredulous. I was angry. I felt powerless.

Why were these ladies wasting my time? They clearly felt that I was neither a fine person nor a wonderful vet. I was just somebody to be ignored. Why did they bother bringing in Fritz if they had no intention of listening to my recommendations? And what was to become of Fritz? The ladies obviously cared for him but nothing I said made an iota of difference to their plan to take Fritz home and start swimming him.

Many years later, I still imagine poor Fritz desperately trying to keep himself above the water with the two legs that worked. I wonder what happened and I wonder if I could have handled this differently and got a better outcome for Fritz?” – Dr Cathy Warburton

Have you ever experienced a clinical encounter like this? These situations are not uncommon in the clinic and can be difficult to manage, especially when we want the best outcome for everyone. If you’d like learn how to navigate difficult clinical encounters with confidence, please join us this October 15th – 17th in Sydney with three of the most supportive, intelligent and experienced veterinarians Dr Sandra Nguyen, Dr Cathy Warburton, and Dr Anne Fawcett. Register TODAY!


Don’t worry- he’s got your back…Meet Dr. James Simcock

Growing up in high school, Dr. James Simcock didn’t know what he wanted to be. It wasn’t until a vet came to a careers night when James was in year 12 that he even considered choosing veterinary science as a profession. James states “they made it sound really appealing so I decided that I would try it. When I was at uni I changed my mind at least a dozen times with what I wanted to do. First, I wanted to be an aquaculture vet, then an equine vet, then a cattle vet. I ultimately decided on small animals. I then found myself doing an internship that developed into a residency in surgery. I think to some degree I have been in the right place at the right time. Regardless of how I got to where I am, I think I’m very lucky as I’ve found something that I love to do”.

Dr. Simcock is an owner and co-director of Southpaws Specialty Surgery for Animals in Victoria. He considers that a great workplace is the result of great staff. James believes that without his team of nurses and vets, they would not be able to do what they do. “We pride ourselves on not having any egos at the hospital. We often say that while we take what we do very seriously, we don’t take ourselves very seriously. Being a vet/vet nurse can be incredibly stressful; having a culture that allows humour and where everyone is treated equally helps to mitigate this stress and helps to bring out the best in peoples’ character.”


In addition to regular staff, Dr. Simcock’s clinic also takes on many residents and interns. When asked about advice for people looking for internships he says “I think the best tip I have is to spend time at the practice/hospital where you are hoping to get a job. Many of our interns are students/vets that have spent time at the practice. Spending time at the practice is mutually beneficial as it gives the candidate an opportunity to see what the hospital is like and to show off their skills/knowledge; it also allows the employer to see how well the candidate fits in and works within the team”.

As well as all the amazing surgery he performs, teaching is also a large part of his job. He says that he gets a lot out of seeing people learn and develop their skills and being able to implement this knowledge into their practice. James states “I love getting emails and phone calls from people that have used some of the knowledge or a technique that I have taught them and had a successful outcome with a case. I also recognise that referral is not an option in a lot of cases, for a variety of reasons. I think it is important to put back into the industry to help people develop their skills and knowledge so that the standard of veterinary medicine is elevated across the board. In doing this, outcomes are improved, patients get the best care, vets have reduced stress levels and clients are happier”.

He’s done many “nerve-wracking” surgeries but his favourite one remains the good old hemilaminectomy/ventral slot for IVDD. James states “it’s one of the most rewarding procedures. Nothing like having a dog walk again after they present with severe neurological deficits”. Dr. Simcock has published many papers on neurological, gastrointestinal, urological, and oncology surgery, and has a special interest in orthopaedic surgery as well.
For such a fun loving successful surgeon, he still manages to stay humble stating his favourite quote, “You are judged not by the magnitude of your successes but how you deal with your failures.” Also, sometimes he just really wants to get where he is going and so if he could have any super hero power in the world, it would be teleportation.

Staying motivated and focused can be a challenge in any profession, let alone trying to create a good work life balance. Having a balance between work, family and fun is really important to James. “I find myself becoming less productive professionally if I’m not able to take time to spend with my family and hobbies” he says. He has a lot of hobbies, and many of his loved ones and friends often mock him for his garage full of toys. To unwind you may find him in the water trying to catch dinner, in the water surfing a wave or just getting out for a run.

What a well-rounded guy with a ton of life experience to share!

VetPrac couldn’t be happier that Dr. James Simcock is returning to VetPrac as an educator at the Perineal and Urogenital Surgery Workshop in 2018. We look forward to seeing him soon! Register for the workshop today, or click to read more information.

James can be contacted at or (03)9553 1775

Interviewed by Alena Felkai
Edited by Alison Caiafia

We Care About Your Success – Introducing Lincoln Institute

One thing we love here at VetPrac, is watching our attendees succeed in the workplace as a result of the skills they’ve developed at one of our practical workshops. We care deeply about your triumphs and successes, and wish all the happiness upon your business, life, and well-being. That’s why we’re incredibly excited to be partnering up with Lincoln Institute, a boutique leadership development company that shares in those values.

You may have heard of them before, and if you haven’t, then you should! Lincoln Institute combines the teaching of the Australian Graduate School of Management MBA program, The Royal Military College Duntroon officer training school and many years of operational experience both in corporate and veterinary business, to provide training and education to small and medium businesses. Lincoln provides veterinary practices with a significant competitive edge through greater staff engagement, accountability and retention as well as the successful execution of sound business strategy.

Over the coming months we’ll be sharing a series of vlogs from the mind behind Lincoln Institute, Dr Gary Turnball, that focus on how you can get the best return out of your VetPrac education and use it to your advantage. Curious about how you can succeed? Watch the video here to find out more!

Lincoln Institute Vlog 1