"Joining Blaise Referrals at the start allows me to make a meaningful impact and focus on what matters most, which is patient care"

- Mike Farrell, Head of Orthopaedics at Blaise Referrals
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Could you tell us about yourself and how you became the head of orthopaedics at Blaise?

I qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in 1997. My career began in veterinary anaesthesia, then I moved to surgery, spent some time in general practice, and became a specialist in 2007. Now I exclusively focus on orthopaedic surgery. In my spare time, I run my own educational website called VetLessons, which provides free access to evidence-based decision aids for vets, nurses, veterinary physiotherapists, and pet owners.

I've been in the role of Head of Orthopaedics since the beginning of June, but the hospital, Blaise, won’t open until the end of the year.

Currently, I’m doing a combination of clinical work at Hamilton Specialist Referrals and preparation for Blaise’s opening. This means recruiting, interviewing, designing protocols, and ensuring we have cutting-edge orthopaedic equipment.

Can you tell us more about VetLessons? Its such a fantastic tool for pet owners to learn more about the decisions theyre making for their animals. What motivated you to start the site?

I’m passionate about providing trustworthy veterinary education, so I spend much of my free time working on VetLessons. It started from a personal concern that we might be failing people by providing conflicting information which was often too complex to fully understand. VetLessons has been running for about three years, and the profession moves so fast that I constantly need to update it. I create the animations myself, which was a new skill I had to learn. The scientific content requires a huge amount of research because everything I share must be factual and evidence-based.

Before publishing a guide, I must be certain the science is presented accurately, simply, and without any personal bias. My goal is to provide reliable free-access content that’s easy for any animal-lover to understand, whether they’re a veterinary professional or layperson.

You've had a diverse and impressive career as a specialist orthopaedic surgeon, working in New Zealand and several other places. What inspired you to come to Blaise and be part of this endeavour with a brand-new hospital?

Being part of a project from the outset is a unique opportunity. It felt like a chance to put my personal stamp on something. In my work, I'm passionate about many things; above all ensuring fair treatment for colleagues and clients, and helping people truly understand the choices they’re making.

Joining Blaise Referrals at the start allows me to make a meaningful impact and focus on what matters most, which is patient care. That responsibility is made so much easier because our hospital is thoughtfully designed, state-of-the-art, and will be staffed by a world-class team.

As the head of the orthopaedics department, you'll have an influence on the team culture at Blaise. What kind of environment do you hope to cultivate?

Social psychology is my hobby. It’s a fascinating subject, and I try to apply what I've learned to support individuals within my team.

The best way to encourage others is to lead by example, which means treating our colleagues with kindness, empathy and compassion.

Do you have any social psychology book recommendations that have influenced you?

The one that sticks with me most is ‘59 Seconds’ by Richard Wiseman, a social psychologist from Hertfordshire University. Each chapter provides a science-based lesson that can be read in less than a minute. It's an insightful book with practical life lessons that have made a positive impact on me.

With Blaise in the final stages of development, and with opportunities to join the team there still available, what would you say to people looking to work there about your hopes for it?

The most important thing is clear communication. Anyone interested in Blaise is very welcome to give me a call.

Reflecting on your career, what would you consider your proudest achievement so far?

The obvious answer is achieving specialist status, which was the culmination of a decade of incredibly hard work. VetLessons is just as important to me personally, because it’s so practical. I have a unique opportunity to translate some of the lessons I’ve learned into a format that anyone can understand.

Finally, it’s all the pets whose suffering my colleagues and I relieved. Every one of them makes a huge difference to me personally, my team and, of course, the lives of their families.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

I would tell young Mike to have the courage to be disliked. In veterinary medicine, it's so important to tell caregivers the truth, even if it's not what they want to hear. Young Mike found it too easy to tell people what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear. I’d teach him to always tell the truth in the gentlest way possible.