Looking to the future with new Clinical Director Anthony Dennison

My Vets, part of IVC Evidensia, is at the forefront of veterinary care in the North West of England, with numerous sites throughout Lancashire. New Clinical Director Anthony Dennison BVSc CertAVP(SAM) PGCertVPS MRCVS tells us about his career to date and how he sees the exciting future for My Vets.
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What led you to become a vet?

It’s something that really runs in the family. Both my parents are vets, so I grew up in the veterinary industry and my mum used to take me on calls with her from about the age of 10. I went to Bristol University and qualified in 2012.

And how did your vet career begin?

I came to My Vets straight after I graduated, so I’ve just marked my 10th anniversary of working here. My wife is also a vet. She qualified a year ahead of me and was working in a practice nearby, so I had a look around the area. I had seen practice at the RSPCA animal hospital when I was a student, and really enjoyed it. I had an interview there and I was viewing my interview at My Vets as a rehearsal for that, the job I really wanted. But when I came here, I realised what an amazing practice it was and knew this was the one for me.

What has been your progression at My Vets?

I was initially the holiday cover vet, going round all the branches before taking charge of a new branch in Southport in 2015, gradually building that up. During that time, I completed my Certificate in Small Animal Medicine, gaining that in 2017. To further utilise my skills, I moved to our main hospital in Clayton le Dale as a senior vet, then the clinical lead vet and have now taken over the Clinical Director role.

What led you to apply for that?

When the previous Clinical Director made the sad decision to leave, I was initially thinking about just helping with the transition period. But then I realised I could be a big part of developing the practice and decided to apply. I was delighted to get the job and we have so many exciting plans.

How would you sum up the culture and team values at My Vets?

I think the culture has been good and we have an amazing team here. Our receptionists have so much to deal with, but they do it all with a smile on their face. Our nurses, nursing assistants and student nurses have taken a massive step up with regards to the support they give to allow the vets to really focus on what they need to do. We’ve really come together and rather than just being colleagues, it’s more of a family feel. There’s a lot of smiles and laughter, and if someone is struggling, there’s always someone to lend a helping hand.

Can you expand on that family ethic?

IVC Evidensia have some great family-friendly policies. My second son was born at the start of 2022, and I was lucky enough to have six weeks off at full pay, with paternity leave and shared parental leave. That family-friendly policy has since been improved even further, entitling me to another two weeks off with full pay. This is where the profession needs to be going, realising it shouldn’t be a case of expecting people to work all hours of the day. You need to have that family time as well and have a proper work-life balance.

What’s your vision for the future as part of the new leadership team?

It’s almost as if we’re starting afresh. We have the opportunity to completely restructure, and pretty much come up with My Vets 2.0. Previously, we’d be looking for a candidate to fit into a specific role we had determined. Now it’s more a case of looking for the right job to fit the candidate.

How might that approach of making the role fit the person work in practice?

If you are just looking for a consulting-only role at a quieter branch, we can accommodate that. If you want to do a lot of operating or ECC work and working towards higher qualifications, that support is also available. It can even be a mix, with time split between the main hospital and the branches. And if you have childcare issues and can’t work after a certain time, that is something we can work around.

What’s your own leadership style?

Teaching is one of my absolute loves. We now have students coming back to our practice and I really enjoy working with them. Over the past decade I’ve put a lot of time into mentoring, and I’ve worked hard on the pastoral element of support. It’s so rewarding to watch people develop, improving their skills, growing their confidence and realising they’re better than they think they are.
New graduates will often ask a question when they actually know the answer. So, I’ll ask them a question back, then break it down and build it back up again which is one of the best ways of learning. I do just the same with our nurses and ANA’s, talking through what I’m doing so everyone feels like a valuable member of the team. The most important thing is the welfare of the staff. Happy staff means more productivity and happy clients, so it becomes a virtuous circle.

How do you see the new leadership team of yourself, new Clinical Director Maliha Chowdhury and new Practice Director Hannah Taylor working?

It’s very much a team effort. It’s great to have Hannah’s in-depth experience with all the non-clinical side and also to be able to sit down regularly with Maliha for clinical matters. But it’s not just three of us, it’s everyone on the management team. They are just as much part of the decision-making process, as are the rest of the staff who are involved in conversations. And I always want to be at the coalface as well as dealing with the other stuff. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I’ll be learning as much as anyone as we lay these foundations.

Finally, why should other staff consider joining My Vets?

We can build a practice around what staff members want and need. I started here when it was an independent practice and when we joined IVC Evidensia my pay and holidays went up, and the family-friendly policies are incredible. We are starting a new way of doing things and there are great plans for the future. I’d love to have a My Vets referral practice at our main hospital, with people joining to help us on that journey. They can improve themselves through us and that will improve us as a practice.