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Episode 99: Fighting the Balrog with Dr. Steve Noonan

Episode Details

Dr. Steve Noonan is no stranger to anyone in veterinary medicine in North America.

He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1983. By 1986 he and his wife, a veterinary school classmate, owned 3 clinics at the age of 27, necessitating a learning odyssey that continues to this day. He studied practice management continuously and was involved with veterinary politics at every level, serving on many committees. He chaired Veterinary Economics Committees for 12 years, overseeing extensive economic surveys of the profession and implementation of fee guides.

He has worked with most of the multi-national pharmaceutical companies either as a key opinion leader or as a small contractor. He has lectured to veterinary students all over the world and coached over 100 hours in the veterinary student communication labs.

Twenty-five years of clinical practice culminated in the formation of a 12 hospital partnership and the directorship of an ultramodern 15,000 square foot hospital in Nova Scotia. He started one of the first emergency clinics in Canada and was chairman of the board for 7 years. Steve has worked with dozens of clients as a management consultant involving on-going dialogue with veterinarians about their concerns and issues.

In 2008 Noonan ‘burned out’. Suffering from a severe physical and mental breakdown, he left active practice. He sought strategies and tools to heal himself permanently and immersed himself in their study. He studied stress management extensively through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses, completing 2 x 8-week courses and attending multiple workshops with other medical professionals in the US. He is a certified life and executive coach with the prestigious Coaches Training Institute ( ), a process that took 18 months.

He is an avid student of positive psychology, a branch of the science that studies methodologies to improve the human condition and help people flourish. He has taken online courses at Berkely and knows about the evidence behind the science of positivity and happiness and how this can be used to help the veterinary profession cope with the stresses that threaten our members. Dr. Steve is one of the VetX Thrive professional mentors meeting with graduates in North America each month.

He’s also and perhaps most importantly a husband, father, friend, inspiration, and mentor to many.
But none of these things would have been possible if he lost his fight with some serious mental illness and suicidal ideation.

In this episode Dr. Dave discusses these issues and much besides with Dr. Steve:

1. How he ended up being a vet and a flower farmer.
2. Three things all good mentors should be.
3. Taking risks early in your career.
4. How big projects burned him out and the mental health challenges that followed.
5. How he grapples with his mental health.
6. Using mindfulness as a lifeboat to prevent overwhelming suicidal ideation.
7. Encouragement to seek help – including mental health counseling.

Here are some useful links if you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or mental health challenges:


Vetlife charity:
Samaritans: 116 123 (telephone)
NHS support:


Lifeline Australia: 131 114
Beyond Blue Australia: 1300 224 636
Suicide Callback Service Australia: 1300 659 467
Mensline Australia: 1300 789 978


National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Textline:
The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386

Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1.833.456.4566

Be safe. Be well. Be happy.

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