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The person behind the business... Dr Ilana Mendels @ VetPrac

Posted in The Person Behind the Business.. @ Nov 12th 2015 - By Judy Gillespie interviewing Dr Ilana Mendels, VetPrac
Ilana Mendels Vetprac

I’m sure you’ve all heard of VetPrac – they provide veterinary vocational education and training workshops.

I’m always fascinated to hear the story behind a business and it's for this reason I started the new blog post series ‘The person behind the business…" This week Dr Ilana Mendels. founder of VetPrac was happy to answer some of my (many) questions and show us just how passionate she is about her business and the veterinary industry in general.   

What’s your background? …What led you to start VetPrac?

I could never sit still as a child. Nor as a teenager or young adult really. My parents were always looking for something I could do and the only thing that seemed to focus me was helping my mother cook or playing with the dog in the back yard or math or TV. 

I don't think that meant I was manic, but I certainly had a lot of energy. Some people look at me today and wonder where I get it from and seem amazed at how vibrant I am. But you should have seen me 20 years ago- with puberty burgeoning along with my mind, it was quite a volatile time. 

To say I always wanted to be a vet isn't entirely true. When I was 5 or 6 I told my aunt I wanted to have a farm, where animals were born and raised and people could come and learn how to treat them well and have contact with them. Some of my friends didn't have pets and I felt that was sad. Some were scared of dogs and didn't even know how to pat them properly. My Aunt told me that it would cost money and the animals would require care. Can you imagine telling a 5 year old that? I have a very practical family. Well, I told her, "I can look after them" and she told me - well then, "you'll have to be a vet." And that was that for me... my path was set. 

I feel like I can still remember her looking at my determined face sometimes... G-d bless me, if I ever have my own kids! 

So it's interesting to me that when I was reminded of this story, I always seemed to be the person who would do this. Who would offer a wider audience the opportunity to experience the education to care for animals in a better way, even before I knew how it would manifest. 

I'm really grateful I am a vet. The education and breadth of knowledge I have a result is massive.

We know VetPrac provides workshops for the veterinary industry but what’s it really all about?

VetPrac is about creating the utopian world we want for animals and people. Human beings are the guardians of this earth, and a healthy symbiotic relationship with animals and our environment is vital for surviving and thriving. Every person has their role to play and the role of the veterinarian as I see it, is quite noble. We are charged with the responsibility to reduce disease in animal populations, to subsequently reduce disease in human populations and to consult on the husbandry and environment management of animals to achieve the same. It is impossible for each of us to do everything. However we are each more than capable than we realise, of doing somethings very well. 

In order to protect and support this idea, VetPrac exists as a framework for positive practical change. A veterinarian who is under trained cannot do their job. A veterinarian who is under appreciated will be deterred from their noble cause. A veterinarian without a net-work and a net@work will lose connection with the beauty of science and nature and humanity. 

When a person comes to a VetPrac workshop, we take care of them. A veterinarian is not just a brain, delivering information to a person. A veterinarian is not just a robot doing a job or a surgical procedure. Our role requires sensitivity, awareness, knowledge, skill and strength. Each of these ideas is incorporated into every VetPrac workshop curriculum. 

If we do our job correctly, we will inspire others to do theirs as well. We will create opportunities for more veterinarians to advance the quality of life, animals and their human carers have. We will create a pleasant environment for us all to live. Hopefully we will engage a portion of the community disillusioned or depressed and give them hope and choice thereby reducing strain and stress. Hopefully we will provide skilled workers for our industry who will be appropriately valued for their capacity to work. 

This is our vision.

When did VetPrac start?

September 9th 2009 

Why do you think there’s a need for what VetPrac offers?

I wonder this myself often...Maybe there isn't... there is already a lot of CPD on the market for vets. And sometimes our workshops don't fill which makes me curious to understand if they are needed. And then I read emails and speak to people and hear feedback from our workshops and my answer is clear. VetPrac bridges the gap, between learning and doing. 

I think each person has within themselves the power to achieve great things when they find their path. VetPrac is just a conduit for that discovery. A safe place to push yourself and be helped along the way with challenge but without competition. I don't think anything else like that exists. A lot of places offer education, but I'm not sure that's the same as understanding. 

I guess that's what we are trying to achieve. 

What are your views on the current state of the veterinary industry and how does VetPrac fit into the picture? 

I think the current state of the veterinary industry is in anaphase and I feel that the potential for us to effect really positive change in many spheres of society exists. There are a lot of people out there doing amazing things to make our world better, and they probably don't get the recognition they deserve. And what’s worse, is the younger vets of my generation and below me, don't have many people to look up to in the industry, because they don't know about them. Our leadership has deficiencies.

I have friends who work in the UN, who develop disease test kits, who are growing cartilage, who are inventing surgical implants, who are chasing icebergs, who are consulting to feedlots, who are reducing dog bite injuries... I'd love someone to give me a huge chunk of money so I could show them off in a documentary. That would be an awesome VetPrac Project. Vets are Amazing!

Food production is a major concern worldwide. Veterinarians should be at the forefront of this 

Disease control is a major concern worldwide. Veterinarians should be at the forefront of this

Companionship and interaction with the natural world (animals) is vital for human survival. Veterinarians should be at the forefront of this. 

Education about all of the above is important to understand how we are to survive as a species. Veterinarians should be at the forefront of this. 

Regardless of how you have the conversation - over a consult table or in the academic or public or corporate arena. Who we are matters. What we say matters. And we do make a difference, every day. 

The capacity we have for positive change is great. The question is - Do we want to accept the responsibility of it and act?

Where does VetPrac fit in?

I'm just happy to be invited to the party. Anything we can do to help is going to be fun. 

What does the future hold for VetPrac?

We have a bunch of projects in the works right now. It's very exciting. 

Ultimately though, the future of VetPrac lies in the hands its participants. 

Like they say in the movies ""The more wishes you make, the more beautiful fantasia will be..."

If you have any question for Ilana about what VetPrac is all about, why not ask them in the Comments section below?

About Ilana

Since graduating from the University of Sydney, Dr Ilana Mendels has worked in a variety of veterinary practices as well as a locum in England. Throughout her experiences, Dr Mendels became aware of the “isolation” a vet can feel, particularly in a rural community, when things get busy or times get tough. 

 In September 2009, Dr Mendels founded VetPrac to meet the professional and social needs of registered veterinary surgeons interested in provided quality services to their clients. VetPrac workshops have provided practical training for over 300 vets.

Click here to visit the VetPrac Page in the Vetanswers Business Directory

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