Veterinary Specialist Services began trading on 11 December 2000 and the doors opened to clients on Monday the 18th of December 2000. On the first day, VSS was operated by Dr Kim Smith (Surgery), Dr Bruce Mackay (medicine), Katie Dargan and Tricia Burdett as Veterinary Nurses along with Sylvia Daniels as receptionist/bookkeeper.
The concept and practical implementation of VSS as a business had been developed initially by Dr Kim Smith with subsequent involvement from Dr Bruce Mackay and Dr Philip Moses over the preceding 12 months. The vision of the practice was encapsulated in the mission statement 'to provide the best possible care for our patients, the clients and our referring veterinarians'. All three vets worked together in different capacities at a large general practice on the south side of Brisbane with Kim and Bruce the driving force for establishment of the practice.
The initial location was in Compton Road, Underwood. This site was established in partnership with the Animal Emergency Centre. The AEC at that time was an after hours and emergency practice that was owned by a large number of general veterinary practices in Brisbane and provided overnight and weekend treatment for their patients. Dr Fraser Galloway from the AEC and Kim worked together to get the nuts and bolts of the practice established. The availability of overnight and weekend care was a good solution for co-location with a specialist practice.
Many of the people who worked at VSS on the first day stayed with the practice for many years. Kim Smith retired as a partner in 2011 and moved to establish a new practice in Darwin, Sylvia had many key roles with VSS until 2019 and Bruce and Katie are still working at VSS today. Dr Philip Moses worked from time to time at VSS and continued to complete his training requirements in Sydney and Gainesville, Florida before joining VSS full time as a partner in October 2001. He is still working full time at the Jindalee practice and active as a director in seeking new opportunities for VSS.
VSS grew rapidly in the first 5 years. The practice at Compton road encompassed a 400sqm floor space with another room across the car park that contained the CT machine and underwater treadmill. The CT was the second CT machine in veterinary clinical practice in the southern hemisphere.
Dr Terry King joined the practice as a partner from the University of Queensland teaching hospital in July 2002 (small animal medicine/emergency and critical care) followed by Dr Jason Mouatt in 2006 (Small Animal Surgery) when he returned to Queensland from Melbourne. Both Terry and Jason retired as partners but are still involved in the practice and profession.
Lindsey Connell joined VSS and established an Animal Physiotherapy practice in 2003. Dr Peter Barron joined the internal medicine team as a registrar and subsequently sat his Fellowship exams. The nursing ranks also swelled with Anita Parkin (now practice manager at Jindalee), and the two Karens (Kemp and Kelly) along with Linda Coad joining VSS. Fiona van de Linde and Sue Moore also joined VSS in this period and are still with the practice.Dr Brad Gavaghan offered a mobile cardiology and imaging service in Brisbane, and his relationship with VSS began in 2001. Dr Gavaghan has been performing interventional cardiology procedures since the early days of the practice.
The Compton Road site had rapidly outgrown its footprint and as such, new premises were sought in Brisbane and at the Gold Coast. The VSS intern program started in 2006 with Dr Kisa Baldwin and in 2007 Dr's David Cook and Wendy Agnew were part of the intern cohort and are still with the practice today. VSS has had 125 interns over the 14-year period that the program has run. The intern program blossomed into a residency system and many VSS interns have gone on to achieve success in general practice, specialist qualifications, of further studies such as PhD qualifications, zoo veterinarians and senior government veterinarians, among many other paths.
By December 2020, more than 35 veterinarians have had part of their specialist training program conducted while working at VSS or had entered a training program after being a VSS intern. Anita Parkin has pioneered specialist nurse/technician training in Queensland achieving multiple Veterinary Technician Specialist qualifications and inspiring a number of current team members to pursue this. During this time, the AEC was bought by Drs Rob Webster and Simon Lemin, and the successful business that is now the AES has partnered with VSS at the Underwood, Carrara and Jindalee locations.
The current VSS premises at Underwood opened on March 3rd, 2008 with Carrara opening on the 15th of September that year. The establishment of two sites in a year was a large undertaking and the projects were led by Dr Jason Mouatt. Dr's Mackay and Mouatt, along with nurses Sarah Welburn and Emma Robb established the Carrara practice.
Dr Gordon Corfield joined VSS in 2008 and after a year of working between Underwood and Carrara, became a key part of the Carrara practice, and then a partner in 2012. In addition to physiotherapy, a number of other disciplines became part of the fabric of VSS including Drs Gavaghan and Meyers (cardiology), Dr Gary Wilson and subsequently Aaron Forsayeth in dentistry, Dr Mike Shipstone and his team at Dermatology for Animals and Dr Maureen Thomson and Kathleen O'Connell in Veterinary Oncology.
Dr Rachel Korman joined VSS in 2011 initially as a small animal medicine clinician but has subsequently achieved specialist qualification in Feline Medicine. In addition, the Pet ICU further developed and was lead by Dr Terry King and his passion for Emergency Medicine. Professor Steve Haskins from the University of California at Davis came to VSS a number of times through his relationship with Dr Terry King, which was instrumental in improving the standard of the ICU and the care provided to critically ill patients.
This was a period where VSS had strong relationships with the University of Queensland and the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, along with the AVA and the Veterinary Surgeon's Board of Queensland, with many people taking roles in teaching and organisational leadership.
The last 5 years have seen VSS expand to a third location, with the Jindalee practice opening in July 2017. The Carrara practice went from strength to strength, with the internal medicine team lead by Drs Lisa Singer and Ninette Keller.
VSS also established some key events in this period, which were led by David Simper, VSS operations manager who joined in 2015. The VSS Gala Ball was first held in 2016 and is an annual celebration of the practice and particularly those people who embody the spirit of VSS.
Peter Barron became a partner in 2016 as Dr's Bruce Mackay and Terry King reduced their work loads, and David Cook became a partner in 2019 as Jason Mouatt stepped back from his clinical workload. David has subsequently transitioned to a role working with the management team, which has recently been bolstered with practice managers at each site.
In mid 2019, VSS surgery began a peripatetic service in Toowoomba with the team at RedVets, a practice established by Dr David Hall, a former VSS intern.
2020 was an incredibly busy and dynamic year for the practice as we negotiated an unprecedented pandemic.
The VSS Conference was held in the week that the coronavirus was really recognised as a global phenomenon with travel restrictions and limitations on the size of gatherings one week later and it would not have occurred.
We worked through split teams, closed state borders, client access restrictions and movement restrictions between our own sites.
While 2020 was a big year for everyone, we have moved into 2021 looking forward to the future for VSS. The only thing that can be certain is that it will be full of surprises, opportunities and change. We will always return to the purpose and mission of the practice which is the provision of the best possible care for our patients, their families and our referring veterinarians.