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 [email protected] or (03)9553 1775
Interviewed by Alena Felkai
Edited by Alison Caiafia