Looking Forward to 2014

Happy New Year to all and welcome to my weekly blog! This year promises to be one of huge growth and positive change for Washington Blvd. Animal Hospital. There are many things on deck for 2014, the most important of which will be revealed at the end of this entry. It’s my cliff hanger so to speak!

Why a blog you might ask? I have started this blog in an effort to share a little bit of myself and my journey in both veterinary medicine and on a more personal level with the clients here at WBAH. My goals are to educate, amuse and grow your confidence in your own ability to help your pets live a great life. It will also be a great journal for me to look back on. I am being trusted with your very precious furry friends, so I figure we should get to know each other a little better. My hope is that you will all enjoy reading the blog as much as I enjoy sharing it with you. If you smile, laugh and learn a little bit, my goals will have been accomplished. We’ll cover everything from carefree topics like aquaponic gardening and long distance backpacking to useful veterinary/medical topics in an effort to grow your knowledge and confidence in dealing with your pet’s health. A little bit of everything I’d like to say…sort of “a year in the life of Dr. Voorheis”. So, let’s start with the basics…who am I anyway? Well, I am a veterinarian, a general practitioner with a special interest in surgery and oncology. But let’s step back and find out how this all came about.

The beginning seems to be a logical place to start. I am the middle child of 5, four boys and one girl and my formative years were spent in a rural setting. In those days, we self entertained. My brothers and I truly loved baseball. We all played and I was hooked from the moment I put on my first glove. Watch the movie Sandlot- that was the Voorheis boys in a nutshell. Aside from baseball, my family raised goats, chickens, sheep, cattle and pigs on a “backyard” farm in Norco. I was heavily involved in the local 4H club and primarily raised small ruminants (cloven hoofed mammals with four “stomachs”). My family was into sustainable farming before it ever became a popular term. We were pretty much into growing our own vegetables and fruit as well, and my mom canned what we did not eat as fresh. To the amusement of my younger veterinary colleagues, yes I have churned cream to make butter and I have made ice cream from goat’s milk/cream… although I have long since forgotten how.
My interest in veterinary medicine began at a young age, and from the time I was 12, it has been the only career that I could ever see myself in. The local veterinarian was a very special person in our home… there is no question that he sparked my interest in veterinary medicine. When I mentioned to him that I wanted to be a veterinarian, he encouraged me, as I have to numerous kids who have mentioned the same thing to me. I have passed on the same advice he gave me as well, which is “study hard, do well in school (A’s are a good thing) and don’t let go of the goal”. As I grew older he would allow me to ride on calls with him. We have remained friends to this day.

In high school, I buckled down and began to focus on my goal of becoming a veterinarian. I came across my high school yearbook once and many references included “good luck as a vet”, so it was well known that this was to be my path. After high school, I attended Cal Poly Pomona and graduated with top honors and a BS in Zoology. Next it was on to UC Davis where I received my DVM in 1982. This was a great year for two reasons. The DVM being one and meeting Suzy (my now wife) being the other.
Suzy and I have known and worked closely together since 1982. I have watched her grow professionally from an assistant to the best vet tech at WBAH. Many years went by with us enjoying a great working relationship and then a little bit of life happened to each of us. We each, independently, had a first marriage dissolve. After that happened, we began dating. Needless to say, we quickly found that we were soul mates. She is my partner and my rock in every sense of the word. She has taught me to let my guard down and show the people around me how much I care, especially clients. She has made me a better veterinarian and a better man. Together, we have a fantastic blended family with my two kids, Grace and Luc and her two sons, Tyler and Ryan. All college age and beyond and all amazing, each in their own way. We also enjoy a house full of various critters including a Great Dane, a Labrador, a Doberman Pincher, a Pomeranian and three cats. I trip over chew toys on a regular basis….and I rather enjoy it.
In my free time, I enjoy some wonderful hobbies. Aquaponic gardening has become a love of mine which evolved from both traditional gardening (reference back to my childhood – but I HATE weeding so I had to find a different way) and hydroponic gardening. With hydroponics, there were chemicals to balance and I really didn’t notice a better quality to the veggies I grew. Then I came upon Aquaponics which is right up my alley. More on this later. I don’t want to spoil it because you can be sure there will be an entire blog entry on this subject!

Hiking and backpacking are my other obsessions. I have hiked and backpacked since the 70”s. It started with my older brother Jeff and has continued with other family members and friends over the years, none more special than my daughter Grace, who by the way lives her name every day. My lifelong ambition has been to hike the entire length of the John Muir Trail, all 220 miles of it. It’s 30 years beyond when I started reaching for that goal and I am still reaching. It will be done one day. More on this later. Again, there will be an entire blog entry on this topic in the near future.
But back to the “vet” in me. Being a vet is not my job, it is my profession. But more importantly, it is my true passion. It is what drives me to rise from my bed every morning. It’s in my blood and it always will be. I wake up every morning at 4:45am. I read veterinary journals and textbooks for about an hour before I feed the critters and return emails to clients. Then it’s off to the office for a day that goes about 10 hours, often more than that. Then home to read a bit more before collapsing for the night.

Sidebar- it’s a good thing Suzy and I work in the same building or she just might forget what I look like. She encourages this work ethic in me and doesn’t mind my long hours of working, reading about “work” topics and being obsessed with being the best veterinarian I can possibly be. See? Soul mates.
When I look back on the naive young man who made his way to UC Davis way back in 1978, I remember thinking that most everyone I would be going to school with would be pretty much like me, with the same goals and ideals. Thankfully I was wrong. I was no longer the brightest guy in the room. I was in a room full of bright men and women and they were all pretty much used to being “the brightest guy/gal in the room”. Over 35 years have passed since I met that motley crew. There are a few things that stand out about that group. They are an amazing bunch of diverse and wonderfully productive people. That class has produced world renowned veterinary specialists in a host of disciplines such as internal medicine, radiology, dermatology, cardiology and surgery. We have a writer for Scientific American and there is a University of Maryland dean in that class too. We have a veterinarian, who as part of his research has been able to explain a difficult to understand topic – “global warming /climate change” into what is happening on a local level (disease spread because vectors can live in areas they weren’t found in previously). We also have a significant number of outstanding general practice veterinarians each who have contributed to their communities. I am fortunate to be in that group.

Professionally, I have been fortunate to have been associated with some amazing veterinarians during my veterinary career. There are a few worth mentioning as having a profound influence on me. Richard Fink, founding veterinarian of Washington Blvd Animal Hospital; Dr. Fink is worthy of an entire blog entry himself, but suffice it to say he realized the importance of the client/pet/veterinarian relationship. He enjoyed his career, and how he loved to laugh and stir things up. He devoted his life to organized veterinary medicine and his own practice. He also realized the importance of surrounding himself with quality veterinarians as part of his own organization. Much like I do now. It has been my pleasure and honor to work with many quality veterinarians at Washington Blvd Animal Hospital. When I joined Washington Blvd. Animal Hospital, on June 1, 1983, I joined a practice that was established and already entering past its 30th year of practice. There were six of us, at the time (Drs. Fink, Whitford, McKitterick, Throgmorton, Pendray and Voorheis). Dr. Pendray and I had gone to undergraduate and veterinary school together, and had both worked at WBAH while working on our undergraduate degrees. Dr. Pendray and I have been close friends longer than anyone I have known, and even though he no longer practices at WBAH we still consult one another weekly on cases.

Each of the above veterinarians have given me something, some part of themselves to aid in the evolvement of who I have become as a veterinarian. Dr. McKitterick showed how important the vet/client relationship was and Dr. Whitford taught me the physical exam (a lost art). A special paragraph should mention Dr. Throgmorton. “Dr. T” and I
have worked together for over 30 years, been partners for nearly that length of time and it is hard to put into a few sentences what he has taught me and what I admire most about him. He is the consummate professional. He gives each client and animal his best. He keeps current through continuing education and reading journals. We are much alike in these ways. I cannot tell you how many times over the years we would be discussing a case and he has said, “Did you consider this?” This comment of course bringing in the missing piece of a puzzle. On a personal level, he has been a steadying influence on me and has always been there for me without fail. He is another rock in my life and I hold our working relationship and friendship in very high regard.
Our local specialty practices have had a strong influence on how I practice, thanks to Dr. Rosenberg and her colleagues at Veterinary Cancer Group, Drs Duesberg and Chung at Advanced Veterinary Internal Medicine, traveling board certified surgeon Dr. Cechner, and Dr. Ravi Seshadri originally at AllCare, then later at Advanced Critical Care and Internal Medicine. Each of these veterinarians and many other specialists have come to the phone and continue to come to the phone to answer and consult with me on a regular basis.

There is another group of veterinarians I have the pleasure of working with, and that is the current team of veterinarians working here at Washington Blvd Animal Hospital. This is as devoted a group of veterinarians, as passionate about their profession as any I have ever worked with. They care deeply about their individual cases, and are terrific communicators. They attend weekly rounds; they share cases well and pursue advanced diagnostics for our clients. I am happy to work with Drs. Throgmorton, Burhum, DeLaCal, Husain and To. This lively bunch keeps me on my toes and ensures that WBAH continues to provide top level veterinary care to our community.

Another group I have been very proud to be associated with is my clients. You have all taught me so much about listening and caring and what it really means to be given the privilege to care for the cats and dogs that so many of you consider family members, children even. My relationships with my clients mean the world to me and without all of you, there would be no me. So, for that I sincerely thank you all.
Dr. Fink told me long, long ago that I would probably have to tear this building down and rebuild it one day and low and behold here comes my cliff hanger……… It is our hope, to begin construction on a new hospital this year, a state of the art veterinary hospital for the City of Whittier. We are VERY excited and we hope you are too! The building will be constructed on the same property that we are on now, and yes we will remain open during the construction process. Building progress will be kept up on our website and a more personal take on construction will be noted in this blog. Plans are in front of the city as I write this. It certainly promises to be eventful! Until next week……….

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