Dr Poh - Heroine of the Week (International Women's Day March Feature)


Dr Poh – Saving animals’ lives, against all odds.

Dr Poh is a veterinarian by profession, working in The Animal Hospital, Murdoch University in Western Australia. She has seen it all, and fought through battles on a daily basis, saving animals’ lives, and losing some. Nevertheless, these hard-fought battles have strengthened her will; she’s working together with students in ICU / emergency care and at the same time, enrolled in a double Masters program with a focus on clinical and research component. The Pet’s Couture delves deeper into the life of the experienced vet (pun intended), and how Harvey and Heston (two good looking cats) brought joy to her life.

The Pet's Couture: Hi there Dr Poh, give us an introduction of yourself!

I am a veterinarian currently working in The Animal Hospital, Murdoch University, Western Australia. I graduated from vet school in 2009, worked in Singapore for 5 years before returning to Australia for further training. I am now in one of few specialist training programs in Australia, specifically in the discipline of Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care (ECC). As part of my training, I juggle full-time ICU/emergency work together with student teaching and am also enrolled in a double Masters program which has a clinical and research component. I particularly enjoy the challenges this area of specialty brings – every day is different and it is most satisfying when a critically ill patient is nursed back to health and you see them survive to discharge. 

I love every bit of my job and training but being away from home can be exceedingly draining at times. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family who have been with me from the very beginning, through thick and thin. I miss home very much and plan to return to Singapore upon completion of my training in 2 years. In my free time, I enjoy sourcing out Perth's best coffee and cakes. 

Meet Dr Denise Poh.

The Pet's Couture : What would you consider your mission as a vet?

To provide the highest level of care for our pets particularly in the area of ECC – because we can, and because they deserve it. With continuing advancement in veterinary medicine and further training, critically ill animals that could not be saved 5 years ago may now stand a better chance of survival. If our human medical counterparts can do it, so can the veterinary profession.


The Pet's Couture: Tell us an experience that you will never forget working in this demanding career

A young female dog was caught in a house fire when the owner’s garage caught fire. No one was home at the time and the neighbours had rung the firefighters who rushed in to retrieve the dog. When found, she was unconscious and the firefighters hosed her down with cold water and provided mask oxygen. She was promptly rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. She had 2nd degree burns to >40% of her body and suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning and lung injury due to excessive smoke inhalation. No one thought she was going to survive but with lots of intensive care from a dedicated team of vets and nurses, she was discharged 3 weeks later! Although the owners lost their entire home, thanks to everyone who were involved, they did not have to lose a precious family member. This is a lovely example of how even non-veterinary people can play a huge role in saving lives – if not for the neighbours and firefighters, she would not have made it to the hospital alive. It is also a fine example of what I call – against all odds.


Dr Poh cites that even non-veterinary members can play their part in saving animal lives.

The Pet's Couture : We are sure working as a vet can drain you physically and mentally. Despite all odds, what gives you strength to muster through adversities and obstacles in this career?

My work largely involves treating critically ill patients. Sometimes despite your best efforts, you still lose them which can be extremely disheartening especially after becoming emotionally attached to the patient. In my opinion, strength comes from personal experience overtime. I have come to realise and accept that we cannot save everything – we will win some battles and unfortunately also lose some. I’m not embarrassed to say that I still shed tears for patients that I lose because grieving for their loss is another way I obtain strength to fight the next battle together with my next patient.

Against all odds - Denise mentions that she wins battles and she loses some. Despite the pressure, the vet uses her experience and expertise to try and save more precious lives to the best of her ability.

The Pet's Couture : Tell us more about Harvey and Heston!

Both Harvey and Heston were adopted from Australia. I adopted Harvey when I saw him at a cat shelter in my final year of vet school. Heston was given up for adoption when he was born, I fostered him as a kitten and never looked back. Harvey is the sensible, no nonsense older brother who walks around with his king-like-attitude, loves dried cuttlefish (or anything fish really) and cuddles up with me in bed every night. Heston on the other hand is the younger mischievous problem child who breaks into drawers to steal food, eats anything that looks vaguely like a string or ribbon, he loves yoghurt and his favourite activity is plotting on how to raid the bin. They are my daily dose of vitamin and my source of comfort especially after a long day at work. I love them to bits and can’t imagine life here without them.



Meet Harvey & Heston - Cats adopted by the vet in Australia. Despite their rambunctious nature, Denise says the cats have brought colours in her life.

The Pet's Couture: If you had superpowers for a day, what would you like to contribute the world?

While I want to say something related to animals because of my love for them; like returning the sharks all their fins that were cut off, or putting an end to puppy mill farms etc, I recognize there are events in the world happening that are on a whole different scale of terrible. So if I could, I would end the Syria civil war for good.


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