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 [email protected]

Written by Alison Caiafa