Melbourne Business School News A scholarship is helping Sarah Warren protect the future of animal care

A scholarship is helping Sarah Warren protect the future of animal care

Sarah Warren has treated all sorts of animals from cats to camels, but learning how to run a business was a very different challenge.

"Veterinarians don't know how to run businesses because we're not taught at uni. We're taught to be vets," she says.

After 10 years as a practitioner, Sarah set out to learn the administration side of running a vet clinic after noticing an industry trend away from sole operators.

"I can see that the industry is changing. Fewer clinics are owned by one vet and more by big businesses and corporations, who can run hundreds of clinics," she says.

"Being a vet is not enough anymore. It's all going business and, if I really want to succeed, that's the next place for me to go."

With that in mind, Sarah set out to study an MBA at Melbourne Business School, while still working at the East Bentleigh Vet Clinic in Melbourne's south east. What helped make it possible was the Helen Macpherson Smith Fellowship, a special fund set up to encourage women to study, teach and research in management. 

"Scholarships give people opportunities they wouldn't have. It’s been so helpful. It's really taken a lot of pressure off my life," she says.

"I've been able to take time off work around exam times and not have financial stress. It also gave me a big confidence boost that I could do the MBA."

Like most scholarships, the funding is provided by philanthropic donors who believe in the power of education – in this case, the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

Now that she's preparing with an MBA, Sarah says the industry move to corporate clinics is a global trend that brings plenty of opportunities as well as challenges.

"In the States and the UK, that's very much how it is, and it's crept into Australia over recent years. It provides more standardised care and helps vets focus on being vets and worry less about running the business," she says.

"But it’s also an opportunity to get better at running a business. My MBA is giving me a much better idea of how my clinic runs. And learning to manage people has been particularly helpful. I have a team that I manage, and I’ve been doing it better since I started."

Having spread her wings early in her career – including in the Middle East, where she treated camels, and India, where her patients included elephants and street dogs – Sarah now wants to focus more on helping other veterinarians. 

"If clinics can be better run and more successful, then vets are going to be happier, clients are going to be happier and our patients are going to be happier too."

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