The new clinical director at one of the UK’s top small animal hospitals has pledged to ensure the state-of-the-art centre remains at the heart of cutting-edge veterinary care. 

Chris Shales, a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), is keen to help introduce a range of exciting advances in treatment as part of his new role as clinical director at the renowned Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, West Midlands. 

Chris, a European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery, was formerly the head of soft tissue surgery at Linnaeus-owned Willows and has a proud track record of delivering innovative treatments at the hospital – with ambitious plans for more in the future. 

He explained: “Willows is an amazing facility filled with outstanding people with unparalleled levels of skill, knowledge and experience. 

“I can’t wait to explore the new ways in which I can help the Willows team continue to keep providing the highest level of care for as many pets as possible. 

“We are well aware our profession continues to evolve, as do the requirements of our hard-working referring vets. 

“This dictates that the hospital also needs to continue to adapt both in terms of the way we work together and the facilities themselves. 

“There are already a number of new specialist procedures we have recently introduced at Willows, including our pioneering mitral-valve clamp programme with which our cardiology team is leading the industry in the UK. 

“I know the next few years will see even more significant changes at Willows and it is hugely exciting to be able to help drive these projects forward.” 

Willows managing director Toby Gemmill has worked with Chris for more than a decade and is confident he and hospital director Tom Reilly, who was appointed to lead the hospital in October 2022, will form an impressive team. 

Toby said: ““Chris’s appointment as clinical director is an exciting step for Willows, and I am looking forward to working with him and Tom as we continue to develop our services and our team. 

“Chris is hugely experienced, is very widely respected, and is perfectly placed to continue our ‘commitment to excellence’ in everything we do.” 

Chris joined Willows’ soft tissue surgical team in 2009 and has since played a key role in developing the hospital’s brachycephalic airway, laparoscopic and interventional radiography services. 

The Cambridge University graduate has also been programme director for the training of surgical residents and was recently awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for his outstanding contribution to clinical practice. 

Chris describes his career to date as “a real rollercoaster of emotion” adding: “Being a vet has certainly been a rich and varied profession so far and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. 

“The past 23 years have provided me with lots of memories ranging from amusing – for example, a dog eating one of the doorknobs from the owner’s house in protest at not being fed – to extremely sad, when people’s beloved companions become seriously unwell.” 

Chris has had numerous research papers published and addressed both national and international conferences. 

He’s also worked with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), the Association of Veterinary Soft Tissue Surgeons (AVSTS) and is currently a member of the programme committee of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS). 

Outside of work, he is a keen rugby fan, cook, mountain biker, amateur landscape gardener and loves walking the hills with his family, labrador Hattie and friends. 

Willows offers specialist services in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, clinical nutrition, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery and spinal surgery. 

To find out more about Willows’ wide range of specialist services, visit or search for Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service on Facebook. 

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