About the Directors

Paul’s story:

Paul Walden, Director, Chestnut Veterinary Group

At the age of 15 Paul decided that a veterinary career was for him. He had always been very interested in Biology but from the age of 13 his best friend had lived on a farm and Paul would spend many happy hours working with his friend helping to look after the animals there. So a career as a vet seemed the most natural choice coupled with the enthusiasm he had gained for the profession from watching the fascinating, albeit dramatised, “All Creatures Great and Small” television series. After gaining a place to study veterinary medicine at the University of London and graduating in 1989, Paul spent 3 years in a mixed but predominantly small animal practice and then a further year travelling and working abroad before joining Chestnut vets in 1993. At this time the work was very mixed with lots of farm animals, horses and cats and dogs to look after as well as some zoo animals for good measure. Paul loved this variety and although the practice now concentrates solely on small animals, he still loves the diversity of the medical and surgical cases that he is exposed to every day!

Michelle’s story:

Michelle White, Director, Chestnut Veterinary Group

Michelle  had made up her mind as to what she was going to be at the age of 8 with no back up plan despite her secondary school’s advice that a career as a maths teacher would be a more achievable goal!  Her love of animals was present from a very young age and much to her parents’ dismay this meant that she was the first to volunteer when it came to looking after the school pets during the school holidays.  This ranged from the slightly angry school rabbit to a cage full of locusts!  After owning guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, gerbils, canaries, budgerigars, and rats she was eventually allowed to go and choose her first kitten. She came back home with two and from this point on her love of cats grew.   She obtained a place at the Royal Veterinary College in London and started University to study veterinary medicine in 1990.  Having graduated on the 20th of July 1995 she began working at Chestnut vets.  Despite initially wanting to concentrate on small animal medicine and surgery she took on the challenge of mixed practice.  During the time that the practice looked after both large and small animals she experienced dealing with a wide range of animals that included camels, lions, pumas, and  meerkats  to name just a few – indeed it is the unpredictability of the work  that Michelle enjoys the most!  Michelle became a partner of the practice in 2000 and as well as enjoying the clinical work she moved into a role that involved teaching student veterinary nurses within the practice.  The training of veterinary nurses has evolved immensely and the practice has committed itself to becoming a well established and well respected nurse training practice of which Michelle is very proud.  Michelle has remained a cat owner since having her first two cats and has had a range of characters over the years. Followers of Chestnuts Facebook page will have seen all of her boys feature at some point in time! 

Fiona’s story:

Fiona Smith, Director, Chestnut Veterinary Group

Fiona joined Chestnuts in 2005 and became a director in the practice in 2013. She has wanted to be a vet all of her life. She says, "I remember my first day at school, aged 4, and having to stand up in assembly to say what I wanted to be when I grew up. I can still picture thinking what a strange question it was, and telling the school that I was, of course, going to be a vet. It had never occurred to me that I was going to be anything else!"

After a childhood filled with a love of pets (two rabbits called Crocus and Snowdrop, and a completely adored working cocker spaniel, Cinders), along with a curiosity for nature and wildlife, it was clear that Fiona was not swaying from her lifelong ambition. Aged 10, she introduced herself to the new vet who had just started up a practice in the small village where she lived. "I remember the vet, Julia, saying that if I worked hard at school that she would let me spend some time with her at the vets and over the next few years, I was lucky enough to spend many a weekend and summer holiday helping out, be it from cleaning out kennels, helping to care for hospitalised patients, and watching many a consultation and operation to learn what the job would really entail."

During her school years, Fiona developed a deep love of science and learning. This was the era of 'Vets in Practice' and 'Animal Hospital' and she remembers being so desperate to follow in their footsteps to train to be a vet. In 1998, Fiona was lucky enough to be awarded a place at St Catharine's College, Cambridge University to read veterinary medicine qualifying in 2004. During her student years she also found time to develop her love of music, being a chorister in the Chapel Choir, and playing the piano and saxophone in the University Jazz Band, along with representing her college in hockey, basketball and tennis along with a very short spell attempting to row!

Over the years since she joined Chestnuts in 2005, Fiona has developed her interests in soft tissue surgery, medicine and imaging. She was awarded her post-graduate RCVS Certificate in Small Animal Medicine (CertSAM) in 2010 after 5 years of private study, and her post-graduate RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Cardiology (CertAVP(VC)) in 2018, holding RCVS Advanced Practitioner Status in both disciplines independently. She has a particular interest in complicated medical and cardiology cases, performing many of these investigations on patients in the practice. Fiona became a director of Chestnut Vets in 2013 and is also very interested in the business management side of the practice in maintaining clinical protocols, ensuring compliance with the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme, and developing a social media presence. She is keen to promote animal care in the local community, regularly organising and running workshops in local schools, and speaking at local careers conventions to help guide budding students in veterinary and veterinary nursing careers. She also organises and supervises the placements we offer for veterinary students at our practice. She is particular fan of Springer Spaniels, having had the privilege of owning a very special one called Daisy.