An update from our Co-Founder Sarah
As some people may know, over the last few years and months I’ve been fighting breast cancer, which I’ve been determined to face head-on. Believe it or not, it has inspired me to be even more determined to promote positive mental health within the veterinary profession. I’d like to leave a legacy as “Chief Happiness Officer” for Joii Pet Care.
More now than ever before, and because my recent terminal diagnosis has really intensified and focused my feelings, I am so proud of the 100-strong team that I work with at Joii. We have amazing individuals working for us in this close-knit company – they have made such a positive impact on the health and welfare of pets and their owners across the UK by making veterinary care more accessible, convenient and affordable.
I am aware that there is a degree of scepticism and suspicion amongst the profession about telemedicine and the future use of artificial intelligence to enhance our ability to diagnose and treat pet health problems. But I strongly believe that pet owners should have access to the same online advice and treatment options that we do as humans, and that they should be allowed choice.
Indeed, telemedicine has proven a vital lifeline for many pet owners during the Covid-19 pandemic when access to physical care was not available, or waiting times were too long. I strongly believe that, in time, online provision of veterinary care, will effect a positive change that is in the best interest of pet owners, pets and the profession as a whole. I see telemedicine as an extension to the profession and I hope that we will be able to work collaboratively with traditional practices to effect a positive change – to develop the industry, embrace technology, and achieve the best outcomes and greatest choice for pet owners.
In my career (I have been a vet for 23 years) I have been lucky enough to work with so many talented and compassionate clinicians both in general practice and in multidisciplinary referral hospitals, and I feel blessed to have been able to work for so many years as a dermatologist – my dream job!
I was first diagnosed with Grade 2 invasive breast cancer in March 2017 and underwent a pretty intensive treatment regime, before returning to work in referral practice. My experience and awareness of how fragile life could be changed my outlook completely, and inspired me to want to make a bigger difference to pets by embracing something new and exciting – which was when Robert (Dawson) and I, along with Paul Hallett, conceived Vet-AI in 2019.
Our vision was to improve the lives of pets and pet owners across the globe through the use of innovative technology and to improve the work life balance of veterinary professionals. The reality of what we have been able to achieve over the last 2 and a half years has exceeded any expectations we had when Vet-AI was just an idea. I have witnessed first-hand the difference we have been able to make to the lives of thousands of cats and dogs and their owners as well as the impact we have had on our vets and nurses, many of whom would have left the profession if they had not had the opportunity to work for Joii. If anyone doubts that telemedicine can form a really important part of the care for pets, I encourage you to talk to any of our incredible veterinary team who have seen the positive impact they have been able to have on so many pets over the last 18 months.
In March of this year, after experiencing pain in my hip and back, and initially putting it down to “wear and tear” (or too many spin classes!), I was devastated to learn that my breast cancer had metastasized to my spine and pelvis and also my mediastinal lymph nodes. It has been surreal having to come to terms with a “terminal” illness and accept that treatment will be palliative rather than curative.
But despite my cancer, I am more passionate than ever about the business I have come to love, and which has become such an important part of my life. The vets, nurses and everyone else that I have had the privilege to work with at Vet-AI are far more than work colleagues to me, which was really brought home when I received a wonderful gift hamper signed from the Vet-AI family. And that is what we are, a family that looks after each other throughout thick and thin. I’m incredibly proud of the caring, supportive culture that runs throughout the entire Vet-AI team, so whatever happens to me now, I am going to do everything I can to make sure that Vet-AI and Joii continues to help pets, owners and vets long into the future.
For me, life takes on a different meaning, but I still have the same purpose – to leave a legacy. I am still working as much as I can, supporting the team at Joii and working to develop new and exciting partnerships for Vet-AI in the future, but there is a focus to spend time with the ones I love and to laugh, smile and enjoy the simple things.