Our Team

Sarah Smith
Director, RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cardiology

Having been brought up in the Leicestershire countryside, I had a strong desire to be a vet from an early age, and qualified from Cambridge University in 1986. After a spell in general practice, where my inclination was towards equine medicine, I found myself following Jonathan (who is now my husband) to South East London. I worked for the PDSA in Lewisham and New Cross for five years, and it was here in the busy chaos that my interest in cardiology was born.

Ultimately our growing family settled in Derbyshire, where I worked, initially as an assistant and later as a partner in a large veterinary hospital in Derby, and my cardiology specialism began to crystalise as, helped by Kay Naden, who is now our Head Nurse at Etwall, I developed a busy cardiology unit. I set up my own independent cardiology consultancy business in 2006, initially a mobile concern offering peripatetic services to referring vets.

I obtained the RCVS Certificate in Cardiology in 1995 and was awarded the RCVS Diploma in Cardiology in 2009 (the first to achieve this from an entirely general practice background), having gained approved experience at Liverpool University Small Animal Teaching Hospital and Martin Referrals in Kenilworth, and equine cardiology experience with Dr Lesley Young in Newmarket. The following year I was awarded RCVS Recognised Specialist Status, and in 2011 opened the practice in Etwall, where we have now been joined by two other nurses I enjoyed working with in Derby, Elle Hancox and Beccy Read.

I am interested in all aspects of cardiology and respiratory medicine, but particularly in congenital disease and feline cardiology. I have also taken part in some important field trials investigating the benefits of new medicines in the most common cardiac diseases of dogs: mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy. I have been an examiner for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for both the Certificate of Veterinary Cardiology and the Diploma of Veterinary Cardiology for many years, and have enjoyed teaching cardiology to all levels of interested students, from pet owners and pre-university students to experienced veterinary surgeons.

I have four children, one dog and cat, and in my spare time enjoy music and theatre.  In 2019 I ran the London Marathon to raise money for the Helen Bamber Foundation.

Ruth Willis
Director, RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cardiology

I spent my childhood on the west coast of Scotland and   at a young age decided I wanted to be a vet. Many pets followed including a wayward pony  which did nothing to deter me and I can still remember the excitement of the letter saying I had a place at Edinburgh University.

I graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 1996. After graduation I worked in general practice for 2 years prior to returning the Glasgow University for another 4 years of study to achieve the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Certificate in cardiology followed by the Diploma in Cardiology in 2002.  I was recognised by the RCVS as a Specialist in Cardiology in 2003. Since then I have worked in private referral practice in the UK and have developed a special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms in cats and dogs through analysis of ambulatory ECG recordings, writing articles and book chapters and, most recently, as a co-editor of The Guide to Canine and Feline Electrocardiography which was published in 2018.

I have a keen interest in further education and over the last 3 years have been on the committee organising BSAVA Congress – the largest annual small animal educational event in the UK. I am also on the Veterinary Cardiovascular Society Committee which organises meetings and training for veterinary cardiologists in the UK. In July 2020 I was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which is the highest status of membership of the college in recognition of outstanding contribution to small animal clinical cardiology.

I am married with two children and an expanding menagerie of pets currently comprising a cat, dog, two ponies and several chickens. In my spare time I am looking forward to exploring the Peak District on foot and also on my bike.

Katie Howell
RCVS Advanced Practitioner in cardiology

My love for animals began at a very young age and soon developed into a desire to become a vet, especially after spending many happy hours alongside a family friend who worked as a mixed vet in Devon in true James Herriot style! My determination to become a vet led to many years of work experience in all areas of veterinary and allowed me to gain a place at the University of Liverpool.

After graduating from university in 2012, I spent the first three years of my career working in a mixed small animal and equine practice (with the odd Alpaca thrown in!) before moving to a 100% small animal practice in Coventry. It was here where my love for Cardiology really blossomed; I obtained the RCVS Certificate in Cardiology in 2020 and subsequently became an RCVS Recognised Advanced Practitioner in Cardiology. I have recently joined the team at Sarah Smith Cardiology and enjoy all different aspects of Cardiology.
In my spare time, I still enjoy my first love of horse riding, alongside long dog walks with my partner Tom and Cocker Spaniel, Gem. I have also developed a love of gardening and baking…I keep the team well supplied with cake!

Kay Naden RVN
Senior Nurse

I qualified as a small animal veterinary nurse in 2000 after spending many years of moving around the country working with horses in various spheres.  I started out my veterinary nursing career in a mixed small animal and equine practice in Gloucestershire, then moved back home to Derbyshire to work in first opinion small animal practice.  For six years I worked in a large first opinion and referral hospital in Derby, where I first met and worked with Sarah Smith, and developed an interest in cardiology.  I came back to work for Sarah again in 2011 when she set up Sarah Smith Cardiology in Etwall, Derby.

Whilst many of you will know me from assisting Sarah in the consulting room for many years, since we have expanded our nursing staff my role has moved more into the office with the management, paperwork, technology side of the business.  You may still speak to me if you telephone or email the practice and I do still like to pop down to the waiting room to get my fix of cuddles and kisses from our furry patients.

Out of work I enjoy knitting, specialising in toys, Dr Who scarves, woolly hats and christmas decorations. I love to read, especially historical detective novels, when time allows.  I am a big Rugby Union and cycling fan and my yearly highlight is my trek around France with my partner to watch the Tour de France, though the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana are also on our bucket list for the not too distant future.

Elle Hancox RVN VTS
Senior Nurse

I began training as a Veterinary Nurse in 1996 in West Sussex. In 1999 I qualified and moved to Derby.

 For eleven years I worked in a small animal hospital with a varied caseload. During this time I worked with both Sarah and Kay. In 2010 I became Deputy Head nurse at a busy multidiscipline referral hospital. Whilst working alongside specialists I developed an interest in anaesthesia.

 In 2014 I qualified as a Veterinary technician specialist in anaesthesia and analgesia. This is a specialist American qualification for which I had to complete a case book detailing the complicated cases I had managed alongside an anaesthetist. These cases had to demonstrate my competency in core and advanced anaesthesia techniques. I then had to travel to America to sit my exams. While studying for my VTS I developed a further interest in cardiorespiratory cases. In June 2016 I came to work for Sarah. I help to provide tailor made plans for our patients requiring anaesthesia and manage them throughout their procedure and recovery. I have also given lectures to other vets and nurses on anaesthesia and am always happy to talk to other practices should they require any advice.

I am currently based at our sister practice Etwall Vets but am a key member of the team during our interventional procedures doing the anaesthetics for these challenging cases.

 In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my husband and kids, I have two very energetic boys, one crazy pug and three lovely chickens. I also like running and obstacle racing – there is nothing more fun than running about in the mud on a Saturday afternoon!!

Emma Murphy

After working with horses in a variety of disciplines, I decided to retrain as a veterinary nurse following an injury. I trained in a multidisciplinary hospital, qualifying in 2013. I fell in love with cardiology while I was training, when my own dog developed an arrhythmia and her cardiologist encouraged me to read up more about cardiac disease and the heart. As I learnt more, I knew that this was the area I wanted to work in.

For several years Emma has been studying for her VTS Exam in Cardiology – this is a specialist nursing qualification in cardiology requiring detailed study and understanding of all areas of cardiology. Currently in the UK only 3 nurses have attained this qualification and we are proud to have Emma as part of our team.

Part time team members
Donna Carmichael RVN

Donna is an experienced nurse who works at both Etwall Vets and Sarah Smith Cardiology. Donna has a calming presence and is a good listener which is much appreciated by many of our clients. Donna also has a great sense of humour which is a great help on busy days.
Donna has a tortoise and a Labrador called Angus.

Beth Lavill RVN
Student Nurse

Beth passed her vet nursing exams in 2020 after doing her training with us and now works at both Sarah Smith Cardiology and also Etwall Vets. She is very dedicated to her job and is often found sitting in the kennels looking after the patients or finding other ways of going the extra mile for her patients. She has a particular interest in wildlife and is developing her skills in anaesthesia.

Beccy Read RVN

Beccy has been nursing for 30 years having qualified as a Registered Veterinary Nurse 25 years ago, she brings a wealth of experience to the team. She is happily married with 2 children and a menagerie of pets. She has a particular interest in nursing our neonatal and geriatric patients... and she makes a great cup of tea!

Debs Bright

Debs is an experienced vet nurse who has worked in the Derby area for many years. She is very kind and caring with the patients who seem to naturally trust her. When not at work Debs is often found enjoying the great outdoors with her young son or looking after her cat and rabbits.

Mel Bruder
Physiotherapy and rehabilitation

Mel is a qualified veterinary physiotherapist. Mel has her own business providing a mobile small animal physio service and a specialist veterinary splint making service. Mel is passionate about providing a service where therapeutic handling is at the centre of therapy. She enjoys working holistically with owners to maximize the functional abilities and quality of life for her patients and their owners. At home Mel has a collection of elderly Basset hounds and a variety of other pets including two house rabbits who have recently joined the happy melee.


Belongs to our neighbors but is frequently seen in our car park and also pops in for cuddles and to ensure that we have adequate supplies of cat treats.