Incredible Improvements to the Veterinary Medical Center

January 10, 2017

Renovations are a win-win for students, clinicians, and patients 

By Laurie Brickley

The look of the “new” Veterinary Medical Center (VMC), its lobby, and new exam rooms is not only pleasing and more modern, but it’s getting a thumbs-up from the students and clinicians who work in it every day. Even a few cats seem to approve of the design. 

This past summer, the VMC’s Small Animal Hospital underwent a major facelift. The main lobby, its entrance, and waiting spaces were renovated and enlarged. Additional primary care patient exam rooms were added, including feline-friendly ones, as were treatment rooms, a student rounds room, and additional offices. Recently, the VMC also added urgent care to its many services and specialties.

Renovations to the VMC series of photos(1) New exam rooms just for cats help alleviate stress for feline patients like Ruby—and their owners. (2) The new open reception area welcomes clients and makes for a clearer progression through the appointment check-in process. (3) Dr. Kristi Flynn and student Anastasia “Annie” Johns review a case. Clinicians and students feel more like a team now that the treatment room and student rounds room are connected. (4) Dr. Heather Fairbairn (with Bug, a Jack Russelll terrier) says the renovations have helped everyone become more efficient. (5) The new primary and urgent care area accommodates students and veterinarians in a more expansive space. The examination rooms encircle this area, providing easy access.

“We are getting such a wonderful response,” says Dr. David Lee, hospital director, who adds that the VMC had not been remodeled since 1979. “We now have spaces that reflect the quality of care pets receive at our hospital.” 

The remodeling was prompted by two needs, according to Lee. “We wanted to create a more pleasant environment for our clients and we wanted to provide more opportunities for our students focusing on careers in small animal medicine.” 

We now have spaces that reflect the quality of care pets receive at our hospital. —Dr. David Lee, Hospital Director

Recently, the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges cited the need for veterinary colleges to better prepare students for careers in small animal primary care, with a greater emphasis on preventive care. The college was already on board with that strategy.

“Since a majority of our students wish to work in a companion animal practice, we had already begun our expansion plans to provide more opportunities for students in primary care and with the kind of cases they would see in a small animal practice,” Lee says.

The expansion also created spaces for clinicians to better communicate with clients about wellness, including nutrition, weight management, exercise, pain management, and geriatric issues. 

“Now we have a central treatment room, and the exam rooms all encircle this room, so clinical faculty and students have access to all records and technology in one space,” Lee says.

For students, the new space feels like a very modern small animal practice that one might experience upon graduation. Fourth-year DVM student Anastasia “Annie” Johns had her first primary care rotation in the cramped quarters before the renovation and her second rotation in the new space. 

“The old space felt very disjointed and disconnected,” she says. “The treatment room was very tiny, and only one or two animals could be in the space at one time. The student rounds room was a distance away and also very small. Now it is all connected, we feel more like a team, and we are able to bounce ideas off one another more easily.” 

Dr. Chris Thomson, a CVM graduate who is now a surgical resident, agrees. “The space is conducive for students to strengthen their physical exam skills in rooms that are so easily accessed, well-stocked, and with technology right there,” he says. 

Clinical faculty member Dr. Heather Fairbairn explains that the renovations allow clinicians, veterinary technicians, and students to be much more efficient. Because the treatment room is so large, up to five animals can be treated and many procedures can be conducted at one time. 

“In the past, there could be a bit of a bottleneck in the treatment rooms as animals waited their turn,” she says. 

Fairbairn also cites the new feline exam rooms. The VMC was recently deemed a feline-friendly practice by the American Association of Feline Practitioners. With waiting and exam rooms just for cats, and pheromone diffusers in the rooms, there are no smells of dogs in these areas, which can increase a cat’s stress level. Cat patients can go right from their own waiting area into a feline-only exam room just a few feet away. In addition, many procedures, including blood draws, can take place right in the exam room with the owners present. 

“Cat owners just love this,” Fairbairn says. “Some of the trauma with bringing a cat to the vet seems to be lessened. The cats seem to get it too. Just the other day, I had a diabetic cat eating treats while we did a blood draw. The owner and I both said, ‘wow, that’s the best he’s ever been!’”


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016/Winter 2017 issue of Profiles magazine, the College of Veterinary Medicine's bi-annual publication for alumni, donors, and other friends of the college.