Meet Specialist Dr Ann Thompson

Australia is fortunate to have many highly skilled veterinary specialists working in most specialty areas. We recently caught up with Dr Ann Thompson who has successfully combined her advanced skills in veterinary internal medicine with a passion for teaching. Let’s hear about how Ann developed her teaching skills, and her current role as a specialist in small animal internal medicine and resident mentor at Veterinary Specialist Services, Brisbane.

What inspired you to become a veterinarian and then go onto specialise in internal medicine?

I have always loved animals and was fascinated by biology at school; it seemed the right path for me. I wanted to specialise in internal medicine as I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of working up medical cases. I am also a terrible surgeon and I legitimately get to avoid all surgeries as an internist.

What would you have done if you didn’t become a veterinarian?

No idea as I really only ever wanted to be a vet; maybe something in the human medical field?

You have a passion for teaching and have completed a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. How have you changed your approach to teaching since completing this qualification?

My teaching innovation as part of my grad cert was related to clinical feedback for final year veterinary students. I read a lot about feedback and practiced giving it. Feedback is so important to improve; everyone likes hearing the positives but giving and receiving more constructive information can be challenging for the student and teacher. Through the experience of teaching undergraduates, I also realised the importance of simplifying the message; giving them lots of information does not necessarily mean they learn more.

What do you enjoy about teaching?

Helping students develop skills and see their confidence grow as they understand a concept or grasp a proficiency is wonderful; I also enjoy thinking of new ways to impart knowledge.

Tell us a little more about your role as a mentor for the VSS residency program. I suspect such a formal mentoring program is a relatively recent innovation. Are similar mentoring programs commonly available to veterinary residents at other universities or training facilities in Australia or overseas?

My own residency experience was in a structured training/master’s program in America at a University that has been running residency programs for decades. Australia had nothing at all similar at the time; in fact, there was only one medicine residency being offered in all of Australia. The number of residency programs has grown exponentially in the last decade. In the past I have been in the position of having a very high caseload of my own and then trying to help the resident with theirs; that’s very difficult. I don’t know of any other private practice that employs a specialist in my capacity as primarily a mentor. It’s an interesting experiment; I hope it’s helping my residents.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Read about your cases; having a tangible case in front of you puts the information you learned at university into perspective. Keep in contact with your classmates; chatting with them helps with the stress of being a new grad. Find a mentor who you can talk through cases with. If you don’t have one at work your old lecturers do not mind at all you calling for case advice. It’s also true that you need to continue learning your whole career; go to conferences! They are motivating, and I always learn something that can change the way I practice.

What do you like to do for fun?

Running (when I don’t injure myself) and traveling.

How do you spend your days off?

Exercising, family stuff, boring other jobs like everyone else and usually working on some veterinary related project like lectures.

If you would like to experience Ann’s superior teaching skills and learn more about Small Animal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, register TODAY our Workshop on February 21-22 at Gatton, Queensland. For more information, check out the brochure.

Dr Ann Thompson can be contacted at

Written by Alison Caiafa

Secrets to Success in Endoscopy.. Meet Dr Julien Dandrieux

Would you like to discover the secrets to success in gastrointestinal endoscopy from a Swiss vet who loves internal medicine for the detective work it involves? Let’s get to know that vet. He’s Dr Julien Dandrieux, who hails from Lausanne, Switzerland and now works at Melbourne University.

What inspired you to become a veterinarian and then go onto specialise in small animal internal medicine?

“Not very original, but I’ve always enjoyed contact with dogs and cats. For this reason, I did veterinary medicine after my biology degree. During my studies, I decided that I wanted to specialise in internal medicine as I like the detective work part of it.”

You’ve experienced veterinary practice and life in 4 vastly different countries -Switzerland, the USA, the UK and now Australia (Melbourne). What brought you to Australia? What is your favourite thing about living in Melbourne? And your least favourite? What do you miss most about Switzerland?

“My moves have been guided up to now by my work! Both my wife and I had the opportunity to join the University of Melbourne. I was able to undertake a PhD, which is something that I was thinking of doing for a few years prior to that.

Melbourne is a very enjoyable city to live in! The weather is so much better than the UK where we lived before and we love the cultural scene of Melbourne as well as the markets, and good food and wine. Lauren is from Melbourne and it is great for her to catch up with her family. Obviously, if I want to be allowed to stay in Melbourne, I must mention the 5-star coffee!

The main drawback of Australia is to be far away from my own family and I miss being able to drive one hour to find myself in another country, with a different language and culture. Being Swiss, I miss beautiful cheese at an affordable price… And skiing! If you put the two together, having a cheese fondue at the end of a day of hard skiing.”

Tell us a little about your PhD project at the University of Melbourne.

“During the PhD, I studied dogs with gastro-intestinal disease. More specifically, we have concentrated on macrophages in the intestines before and after treatment. We are also developing new methods to monitor dogs treated with immunosuppressive drugs, aiming to reduce adverse effects. This has been a collaborative project with Mississippi State University.”

What is it about small animal gastrointestinal endoscopy that you enjoy the most?

“I like any type of endoscopy! Endoscopy requires a lot of skill, especially to get adequate biopsies. It has taken me several years to feel at ease with it, but it continues to be challenging. (who has never been blocked by an uncooperative pylorus?). I have been using histology a lot during my PhD, which makes me much more aware of good technique to get adequate samples when getting biopsies of the intestinal tract.

Endoscopy is now also used for interventional medicine, which makes it even more exciting.

One of the most satisfying feelings when teaching residents is to see them develop their skills in endoscopy. At the start, reaching the stomach is a difficult task! However, by the end of the residency, they feel comfortable throughout the procedure”

What practical tips in small animal gastrointestinal endoscopy that you learned from experience would you share with general practitioners?

“Do not overinflate the stomach!! Or you will find it hard to reach the duodenum…. Endoscopy needs practice, practice, … and practice!”

What advice would you give new graduates?

“There is a shift in students with a majority now being interested in undertaking some degree of specialisation. I think that as a new graduate it is important to get excellent broad skills prior to deciding about specialising or not.
Our job can be very draining, so it’s important to discuss options on how to deal with the stress of the job and to keep a balanced life.”

What do you like to do for fun?

“We just had a baby, so life has changed quite a bit over the last few months! Luckily, we have a very active Kelpie that gives me excuses to go for runs and bike tours. A lot of outdoor activity! What am I missing most from Switzerland… skiing! Most fun sport that I do. Traveling and enjoying a glass wine with friends.”

How do you spend your days off?

“It usually involves having breakfast out in one of our favourite coffee shops and some outdoor activity.”

You can meet Julien and experience more of his detective skills at the VetPrac Small Animal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Workshop at Gatton on February 21-22, 2019. Register TODAY! You never know what you might discover!

Dr Julien Dandrieux can be contacted at:
U-Vet, 250 Princes Highway, Werribee, VIC 3030.

Written by Alison Caiafa


Happy New Year From Ilana Mendels!

Dear Colleagues,

I recently returned from a trip to Israel where I joined 600 other women from around the world to discuss over 8 days how our role in society influences the world. The women were remarkable; CFO’s, CEO’s business owners, cancer survivors, businesswomen, army retirees with 25 yrs experience, housewives and diplomats, divorcee’s, lesbian single mum’s from countries where its illegal to be so, grandmothers caring for foster kids, and granddaughters of Holocaust survivors. During the time we spent together we discussed some principals for surviving life in the modern world as women in the post-feminist era. Daughters of mothers and grandmothers who fought for suffrage and freedoms taken for granted by the generation after us. The ideas we discussed were: unity and mutual responsibility, courage, peace in the home, gratitude, generosity, dignity, learning and growth and faith and trust.

Mostly we started each conversation with an affirmation around a leading idea – to achieve unity without uniformity. That a celebration of difference and collaboration is the key to everything.

This is a time when the whole country’s mood is shifted into a rest state (unless you work for the emergency services). It’s a chance to exhale.

Have you been able to stop for a moment?
Could you make space to take stock of the bigger picture?
If your time is so valuable, is that not the greatest gift we can offer our loved ones in this busy age?
As the year draws to a close, have those who help us succeed been recognized and thanked?
How does peace manifest in your home and clinic?
What have you learned and how have you grown this year?
And what learning and growth have you seen in the ones you love or care for? And has that been acknowledged?
How has this acknowledgement influenced your dignity and the dignity of those around you?

When I was away we were asked to switch off from the world and trust it would be okay. We were asked to look at the world, see the good in it, and talk about it. We were asked to recognise that everyone has a story and we are probably meeting each other at different chapters in our lives – so be kind. And we were asked to not be the person to point out problems.

As vets we are problem finders and problem solvers. But sometimes when you identify a problem, you can’t unsee it and it clouds our perspective. Instead, it can be more helpful to point out what is good and who is good around us. It’s also a gift to a person to highlight the good in them, and its a gift to the world too.

The act of giving, which is so broadly practiced throughout society at this time of year, is a beautiful concept. I wish it would continue all year. And with it comes the act of gratitude. 
I want to take this moment to say how proud I am to be a part of our veterinary community. There have been some massive events in 2018 in welfare and health and community activities locally, nationally and internationally and veterinarians have been associated with many of them. For those who work locally, sometimes it feels like squeezing an anal sac doesn’t make a difference; please know that it does. The comfort you bring your patients, helps their owners to feel better, which enables them to have broader happier relationships. For those who work in communities and larger organisations where it feels like your little bit might not matter – know that it does. Sometimes we make great breakthrough’s in health and welfare only because of everyone working together with their own strengths towards the one goal. The goal may not be reached during our journey but we will get there collectively. I’m so impressed when I speak to people in our industry about what they do and imagining the impact it will have… It’s lovely and hopeful.

Thank you so much for letting me contribute to the world through veterinary education with you over 2018 and into 2019. I am so thankful to you for your support and participation so we can make the world a better place through our work.  Seeing your success with cases and careers after participating in our workshops fills us here at VetPrac with pride and dignity. It gives more meaning to our lives and it makes our daily work driven and purposeful. I’m looking forward immensely to what 2019 brings.

Warmest wishes, be safe and Happy New Year!


Ilana Mendels