The co-founder of an innovative national vet tech firm has bravely shared her focus to leave a lasting legacy as “Chief Happiness Officer” after receiving a devastating terminal cancer diagnosis.
Sarah Warren, Chief Veterinary Officer at Joii Pet Care, is a leading veterinary dermatologist in the UK and has been working in the industry for 23 years. Alongside co-founders Paul Hallett and Robert Dawson, Sarah founded Research and Development company Vet-AI in 2017, which has since developed and launched innovative app Joii Pet Care.
In a letter written for her team and customers, Sarah explains that she has been fighting breast cancer “head-on” for the last few years, making her even more determined to promote positive mental health within the veterinary profession; which in recent years has recorded worryingly high rates of suicide. From the outset of founding Vet-AI and Joii, Sarah has been determined to instill a positive, supportive culture across teams and would like to be remembered as the firm’s Chief Happiness Officer.
Sarah also addresses the fact that there is “a degree of scepticism and suspicion” in the veterinary profession about telemedicine and the future use of artificial intelligence to enhance the ability to diagnose and treat pet health problems. As a passionate advocate for veterinary care being available to all no matter what circumstances an owner finds themselves in, Sarah adds: “Pet owners should have access to the same online advice and treatment options that we do as humans. They should also be allowed a 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.”
Talking about her diagnosis and how she has dealt with this, Sarah adds: “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 metastasised 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.”
Not at all deterred by her terminal diagnosis, Sarah’s focus and feelings about the industry and team she holds so dear to her heart have further intensified. She explains: “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.
“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 continue 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.”
Earlier this year, Joii Pet Care reached a milestone of 150,000 registered pets. The app gives a “111” triage service and also has a free innovative symptom checker, as well as signposting owners to physical vet practices. It has been in huge demand since it launched and now conducts tens of thousands of vet consultations.