All for one, one for all


When the owner was selling, these three musketeers-er, associates-knew they would buy his hospital to make sure they kept working together.

Some of the touches that made Northwood Animal Hospital in Tallahassee, Fla., the 1975 Hospital of the Year (May 1976 Veterinary Economics) are gone. Skylights and windows in surgery bringing in natural light are covered up, victims of high heating bills. The lead curtain is gone from the wall-less radiography room, which means staff must clear the hallway before taking pictures. One of the doctor's offices is now a euthanasia comfort room, so all five veterinarians share a single adjacent office.

But none of that matters to Drs. Sandra Brown, Kevin Brumfeld, and Sheri Kasper. They bought the practice from award-winner Dr. Jerry DeLoney in January 2000 for the same reason clients had been coming to Northwood for decades: the people.

"Dr. DeLoney came to us one day and said someone had made an offer on the business, but they were going to split the team up," Dr. Brown says. The young doctors already knew they liked working together. When Dr. DeLoney said they should make him an offer, it was an easy decision for them to become equal partners.

Since the change of ownership more than seven years ago, Northwood Animal Hospital has been seeing small but helpful improvements. The leaky roof had been fixed, and the red trim above the white cinderblock walls is now an eye-catching blue. Unfortunately, growth is impossible at the location.

"We went back to the original architect and found out that between Florida's laws on green space, runoff, and holding ponds, we didn't have room to expand," Dr. Brown says. "We couldn't even go up."

The doctors settled for expanding and renovating the lobby. The separate dog and cat waiting rooms were combined, the inset front doors were pushed out, and an awning was built over them. The intake-outtake window, which reminded Dr. Brown of an "old movie theater ticket office," was removed for a reception desk that offered a full view of the entire lobby. When it came to lobby seating, the building's sturdiness worked against the young doctors. The old vinyl bucket seats were secured to a steel girder that protruded from the cinderblock wall-girders that would be difficult to remove. So they built wooden benches over the girders.

Further into the hospital is a centralized lab that remains in use for fecal and heartworm tests, and microscope usage. Blood tests and other lab work sensitive to hair and dust have been moved into the pack room off surgery.

The overall location of the hospital in the city is still excellent, although it's set back from the street and an optometrist's office partly obscures street visibility. But the hospital has been there a long time, and Dr. DeLoney's outreach through the years has created a strong client base. The hospital has garnered clients through its status as a wildlife drop-off point for years, and clients still remember seeing Dr. DeLoney driving around town with an impaled football player in his old ambulance.

Say what?

"Dr. DeLoney was a huge Florida State fan, and he would dress up a dummy in the opposing team's uniform, stick a spear through it, and drive through town with this thing on his old ambulance," Dr. Brown says. "Everyone knows we're the clinic with the ambulance. We did it for a couple of years, but after it broke down, we quit. I wish we were more into football. People still remember that ambulance."

Unable to grow Northwood or expand it on its property, the three doctors have bought and opened a 6,000-square-foot warehouse as their primary veterinary hospital and boarding facility, with 2,000 square feet of luxury pet resort space.

"Northwood is our clinic and pet emergency hospital, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she says. "The Animal Hospital and Resort at Southwood is serving southern Tallahassee residents."

Dr. Brown is positive about the future, looking for new veterinarians for Southwood, and taking care of a busy Northwood clientele with five veterinarians. The doctors are enjoying the success of their ownership and happy that they were able to get a durable award-winning hospital with a great staff, steady clientele, and fellow doctors they love working with.

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