Our People

[ Gavin Shepherd | Mark Gilmour | Paul Fraser | Tanya Page | Jim Rhynd | Alpha Woolrich ]

Our Board members

  • Dr Gavin Shepherd, Chairperson
  • Dr Mark Gilmour, Board Member
  • Dr Paul Fraser, Board Member
  • Dr Tanya Page, Board Member
  • Mr Alexander James (Jim) Rhynd, Board Member

    see below for more detail

Ex Officio members

  • Alpha Woolrich, Chief Executive Officer
  • Trish Thorpe, Secretary

VPIS Board Members

Gavin Shepherd

Gavin Shepherd

BVSc Massey 1979, MAVSc, MBA
VPIS Board since 2007
Board Chair since 2016
Species: Companion Animal

What does your background bring to the job? My area of expertise is small animal practice. I have been a small animal veterinarian for over 30 years, but now manage a veterinary business in the Waikato which employs around 50 veterinarians. My employees shudder when I tell them about the cases we see.

What do you enjoy about your Board role? There is a lot of stress when a customer complains about your business, or you as a veterinarian. When a complaint progresses through to the Veterinary Council, the stakes escalate. I have been involved with VPIS for over a decade and supporting veterinarians when going through an investigation is so rewarding, especially when you see the personal and professional difference we make.

Final Word: The first thing I advise veterinarians is to prepare for the length of time a complaint can take to go through the process. It is not uncommon for the process to take as long a year, and they need to prepare for this. That's where having VPIS support is so important for veterinarians – to know they've got experienced help alongside.

Mark Gilmour

Mark Gilmour

BVSc Massey 1978
VPIS Board since 2007
Species: Production animal

What does your background bring to the job? I was in a mixed practice in the Rangitikei for 33 years - initially at the Marton Vet Club and since 1980 am a partner in Southern Rangitikei Vet Services. Since 2011 I have been self-employed and provide consultancy services to several companies. I assess claims involving production animals such as sheep, beef, deer and some dairy.

I know from my time in practice, and as a manager, that as vets we face some unique challenges and risks. So, when my fellow Board member Vince Peterson suggested I put my name forward for the VPIS Board it was a great opportunity for me to give something back into the profession.

What do you enjoy about your Board role? The cases VPIS has dealt with gives us a real insight to many aspects of practice and allows us to have a perspective managing risk in the profession. We have used this to provide guidance on things like scanning and pregnancy testing, technician employment, certification for transport, raw milk and associated legislation.

Final word: While the primary role of VPIS is to provide indemnity insurance to the profession, what I think gives us our point of difference is the genuine focus and passion for the well-being of vets, and the standard of the profession, of every Board member past and present.

Paul Fraser

Paul Fraser

BVSc Massey 1977
VPIS Board since 2011
Species: Equine

What does your background bring to the job? I spent forty years in equine clinical practice at Cambridge Equine Hospital before retiring from full time work in 2017. Since then, I've continued to work for them on a consultancy basis and occasionally locum for other practices. I assess claims predominantly involving equine.

What do you enjoy about your Board role? My passions are helping young veterinarians develop their careers and trying to come up with innovative solutions for problems, both veterinary and non-veterinary, by looking at things from slightly "outside of the box".

My greatest satisfaction is working to ease the anguish of our insured vets when they are subjected to the stress of legal action when things go wrong.

Final word: Whether the vet is in the right, or in the wrong, is of little consequence. Our job is to guide them through the process of rectifying the issue in a way that minimises the negative impact it may have on them personally, and on their professional future. If I can achieve that, I have done my job.

Tanya Page

Tanya Page

BVSc Massey 2001
VPIS Board since 2017
Species: Companion Animal

What does your background bring to the job? I've been a veterinarian for about 17 years now and assess claims involving companion animals. Becoming part of VPIS has allowed me to help the profession that I have been part of over that time.

What do you enjoy about your Board role? The complaints procedure is a very stressful time for veterinarians. I have found that it doesn't matter how old the veterinarian is or how experienced they are, from a new graduate to one with specialist qualifications, they are all affected in a similar way.

I have a lot of empathy for the demanding work and difficult situations that veterinarians become involved in, and it is important to me that veterinarians can feel supported.

Final word: It is a very satisfying experience to be able to make a complaint go a little more smoothly for the veterinarian and take some of the burden off their shoulders.

James Rhynd

Alexander James (Jim) Rhynd

VPIS Board since 2014
New Zealand Veterinary Clubs Association (NZVCA) representative

What does your background bring to the job? I'm an experienced dairy and beef farmer in Northland, the Chair of the Northern Wairoa Veterinary Club and the farmer representative for the New Zealand Veterinary Clubs Association (NZVCA) on the VPIS Board.

What do you enjoy about your Board role? While I'm not an Assessor, you could say I provide a practical view from a farmer perspective.

Final word: The services that rural veterinarians provide are essential to a productive and efficient agricultural sector. Insuring with VPIS provides a safety net when things go wrong for both farmers and veterinarians working together.

VPIS Management & Administration

Alpha Woolrich

Alpha Woolrich

"I'm the VPIS Chief Executive Officer and am responsible for leading the delivery of VPIS's strategic initiatives, overseeing the day to day business operations, and liaising with the Board and regulators."

After being introduced to VPIS on my daily commute into Wellington, and joining the team in January 2018, I've quickly found it to be a perfect fit, where I can combine my love for animals and helping people with my unique passions for insurance, risk and analytics.

Trish Thorpe

Trish Thorpe

"I'm the Claims Assistant for VPIS and will usually be the first person you speak to when you ring in to notify VPIS of a claim or complaint you've received from a client."

I have worked for VPIS since 2000 and have developed an in-depth knowledge of the types of claims and stresses that veterinarians face.

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson

"I'm the IT Manager for VPIS and focus on IT support, maintaining the claims database and website and attending to any customisation and database reports VPIS needs."

I joined the NZVA and VPIS five years ago and came into the IT world via a happy accident in the early 2000's after dabbling in building and property maintenance. My career has mainly revolved around website and Open Source software development.

Access level