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Iowa Equine - The Journey to Opening an Equine Veterinary Practice

By Dr. Rozann Stay

Article Archives LinkClinic Connect - Iowa Equine

Clinic Connect - Iowa Equine

I started Iowa Equine in 2012 as a solo ambulatory practice. As a new graduate I was frustrated by the lack of equine-exclusive jobs available and was unable to reconcile my personal philosophies with the conventional employment tenets of equine practice; so I packed up all my youthful optimism and set out to create the career I wanted. My biggest obstacle at that time was my commitment to consuming a steady diet of Ramen noodles. Having ample free time, I used it to make as many contacts with as many potential clients as possible and to really contemplate what I wanted to get out of practicing veterinary medicine – beyond having enough income to expand my culinary repertoire. I utilized my local bank to finance the purchase of some used x-ray equipment and otherwise operated on a cash basis.

We are fortunate to have Prairie Meadows Racetrack in the area and by a stroke of luck I was approached to help with regulatory work there. I happily accepted and the reliable income it provided was instrumental in my ability to maintain focus on my goal of building a client base from scratch. After a couple of years working for the contract, I had the opportunity to bid it myself and received both the state contract and an invaluable crash course in business management and employment. I went from being a solo practitioner to overseeing 10 technicians and 3 veterinarians overnight. Most fortuitously, during my time at the track I got to know Dr. Stephanie White and for about a year we explored the idea of forming a partnership. Dr. White had been partner in a racetrack practice for 15 years as well as maintaining a solo ambulatory practice during the off-season. Racetrack practice is well known for its intense schedule and after 15 years, Dr. White was losing her enthusiasm for 11pm scopes. Many of our discussions at the time centered on identifying the things that were diminishing our commitment to equine practice (insane work hours, endless on call, the intense demands of equine clients) and examining whether we really believed that these were truly intrinsic to equine practice. With a shared goal of creating a format where we – and others – could enjoy the very fun and interesting career of equine practice, we formed our partnership. The biggest challenge of 2016 was making the shift from two solo practitioners to one unified practice. Where the solo practitioner is wholly committed to self-sufficiency, this habit translated directly into redundancy in our new multi-doctor scenario. We worked very hard to learn, accept, and respect one another’s strengths and weaknesses and spent a lot of time figuring out how to put these things to work for the good of Iowa Equine. We added our first full-time assistant, Megan to our small team that year and she added “herding cats” to her resume. We both agree that adding a full-time employee dedicated to helping organize and execute clerical and administrative tasks was transformative for two former solo-practitioners.

We are happy to say that our friend and Midwest Veterinary Supply representative, Nicole McFarland, has been a great resource as we have grown. In 2016 we made significant upgrades to our x-ray and ultrasound equipment and Nicole has facilitated contact with numerous equipment reps and helped us find financing options that suited our practice needs. This was invaluable because we were spending most of our time meeting the needs of our rapidly expanding client base and we had little time left-over to play phone tag, arrange demos, and gather documents. While rapid growth is a tolerable problem, Dr. White and I agreed that we weren’t keeping with our mission of having jobs AND having lives so we immediately started discussing ways to solve our problem of “busyness.” We decided that the potential stabilizing benefits of having a brick and mortar clinic outweighed the risks and in early 2017 we purchased an existing 6,600 square foot building and relieved our post-purchase anxieties by pouring ourselves into demolition and reconstruction. Following our habit of critically evaluating the validity of current trends, we eschewed from the more/ bigger/fancier approach and put our focus on the functional aspects of the clinic. We wanted people to experience our facility as a clean, comfortable, authentic, and safe place to turn to when they are concerned about their horses’ wellbeing. We prioritized having enough space for even the most creative and athletic of unruly horses and that is easily one of our favorite parts about our clinic set up – room for the unexpected.

In dealing with the Iowa winters, it is very easy for us to feel certain that adding a physical location was the right thing to do. But beyond climate control, it has allowed us to continue to grow by adding our clinic coordinator, Alison, as well as additional support staff to help carry out our mission of dependable and timely customer service and comprehensive ambulatory care with technicians on the road. While we had concerns that we were buying too much space in the beginning, we are wasting no time filling it; we are very excited for our newest project as we expand our reproductive service offerings with the addition of Dr. Nyomi Galow Kersh to help us accomplish the task as we continue to grow our practice to serve the Iowa equine community with the highest standard of care.

Bios
Dr. Rozann Stay
Originally from Northern Minnesota, Dr. Stay got her start showing Quarter Horses. After graduating from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011, she moved to Texas where she worked on cutting and working cow horses. Rozann saw an opportunity to further her training in cooler temperatures and took an appointment at Iowa State University where she further developed her lameness and surgical skills. Her main practice interests are sports medicine/ lameness and dentistry. Dr. Stay launched Iowa Equine in 2012 and enjoys the opportunity to meet the horse owners of Central Iowa both on the road and in the clinic. Her primary practice interests are performance horses and lameness, business management and having a long-term positive impact on the equine veterinary industry.

Dr. Stephanie White
Dr. White is an Iowa native and graduate of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, Stephanie took an internship at the University of Tennessee to further her skills, and then moved back to her home state. Stephanie practiced in and around the Des Moines area until she saw an opportunity to work with the horses at Prairie Meadows Racetrack where she practiced for 15 years. Dr. White's main practice interests are performance horses, general wellness, and acupuncture.

Iowa Equine Figure 1 Iowa Equine Figure 2