Dr Kathleen Walsh's dream of running her own country dental practice

When her youngest turned eight, Kathleen Walsh turned to us to realise a dream of running her own country dental practice.

  6 minutes

Since graduating from the University of Melbourne in ’96, Yarra Valley Dental practice owner Dr Kathleen Walsh has accumulated two decades’ of invaluable experience in general dentistry. 

From 1999 to 2012, Dr Walsh lived in the Yarra Valley with husband Damien de Castella, working part-time at practices in Bundoora, Healesville, North Ringwood and Knox while raising a family of five. She’d take six months’ maternity leave for each child, then returned to work, ensuring she kept up her clinical skills (and sanity).

Though Dr Walsh’s long-term goal was to establish her own surgery, family came first until her youngest, Michael, turned eight. Then the time seemed right to make her dream a reality. Where better to start than on home turf?

“Working in urban dental practices, I always felt these areas were over-supplied with general dentists, while others, like the Yarra Valley, were in short supply,” she explains. 

“I had a deep connection to the people of the Yarra Valley and had always wanted to return there to open my own dental practice.

“At age 43, I knew that if I didn’t act soon, I’d regret not taking the leap. The opportunity was there, and if I didn’t set up, someone else, or a corporation, would. The town needed a local and I was determined to be the one.”

Winner, winner

“I thoroughly researched the needs of the area and presented my business plan to BOQ Specialist,” she explains. “Being an unopposed dentist in a non-fluoridated area was a great strength of the proposal. BOQ Specialist never doubted me and fuelled my confidence every step of the way.”

Dr Walsh took a 20-year lease on a building in Yarra Glen’s main shopping strip and did a complete fit-out, starting with two dental surgeries with one dental chair and the other surgery has fit-out with the option of adding a chair in the near future. 

In June, less than two years after opening Yarra Valley Dental, she won the 2017 ADAVB BOQ Specialist $10 000 Practice Bursary recognising “dental practices committed to quality learning”. 

The bursary funds professional development for practitioners and staff, including training programs and ADAVB CPD courses. 

“This year’s deserving recipient and her team are committed to staff training, and the value of this training has real benefits on the health of their patients and the wider community,” said ADAVB President Dr Susan Wise on announcing Dr Walsh’s win.

People first

“After having lived in the Yarra Valley for 15 years, I knew my patients would require a dentist [who was] highly engaged with the community. This was further evident after my research,” says Dr Walsh. “My motto has always been, ‘People first, then the money will come’. I normally spend an hour with each new patient, just getting to know them and building the relationship.”

As Dr Walsh sees it, “continuing education, in all facets, is the foundation of a successful practice. To keep learning and challenging what we do is what makes us appealing to our patients and engaged with them. Winning the bursary was the icing on the cake!”

An investment in knowledge

Dr Walsh plans to use the $10,000 for staff training and development that ranges from “furthering my understanding of PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder following the Black Saturday bushfires” to treating patients with addictions; leadership and staff development in practice management; first aid and emergencies; infection control and accreditation; sleep dentistry and bruxism; and oral-surgery skills for complex cases. 

Already, the pay-offs are evident, she says. Sound financial backing, know-how and trust were equally crucial to her success.

“Yarra Valley Dental would not exist today without the financial support of Melinda Goddard and the team at BOQ Specialist, who never questioned my ability to realise my dream,” she says. 

“They enabled me to run the project without interference and pressure, always acting professionally and with the utmost support and respect.” 


Thinking about starting or growing your practice? Click on the link to find out more about our tailored financial solutions for setting up a practice. Ready to take the next step? Contact us to find out how we can tailor a practice finance solution for you, or call us on 1300 160 160.

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