Big shoes, and an even bigger practice, to fill


Stepping into his role as veterinary practice owner, this doctor takes over an iconic practice and makes it his own.

Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital by the numbers

Owner: Dr. Todd Hughes

Associates: 11 full-time, 3 part-time

Hospital team: 75 full-time, 30 part-time

Practice style: 100 percent small animal

Building size: 17,000 square feet

Parking spaces: 32 client, 20 staff

Construction: $3,130,669 (building only)

Site improvement: $381,601

Professional fees: $312,650

Equipment: $320,000

Furnishings: $150,000

Computers: $130,000

Architect: Melvin Dalton McGee, McGee Sharon Architects,

Talk about having big shoes to fill. Dr. Todd Hughes is the current owner of Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital, which is the hospital founded by Dr. Robert Miller in Thousand Oaks, California. Dr. Miller, a long-time contributor to Veterinary Medicine with his popular “Mind Over Miller” column, founded the iconic practice in 1958 and won the Veterinary Economics Hospital of the Year award for its design in 1967. Over the years, Dr. Miller saw not only dogs and cats, but a variety of exotic animals from Jungleland, a company that supplied animal actors to the Hollywood film industry.

Exterior (before and after): The empty warehouse shell was the ugliest building Dr. Hughes had seen, but his real estate agent and architect helped him see the potential in the space. The addition of a corner tower gave the building a welcome entry into the hospital, as well as providing 24-hour exposure for the emergency center.


Fear-Free tip

Conejo Valley has a cat-only exam room to help reduce stress for feline patients. Upon arrival, clients can be whisked into the room if their cat appears upset. For larger patients, Dr. Hughes conducts his exams on the floor, allowing for more patient comfort in the exam room. For more Fear-Free tips from the Hospital Design Supplement, click here, or visit

Dr. Hughes began working at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital shortly after his veterinary school graduation in 1998 and bought the practice in 2010. He's only the third owner since its inception-and the first to completely rebuild the facility.

“One of my top three goals in building a new hospital was to win a Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition award again,” says Dr. Hughes. “To not have this goal before designing the new hospital would have been  a disservice to our founder and all the doctors and staff members past and present who made the hospital what it is today.”

Space to keep everything in its place: Dr. Hughes chose fold-up tables in the exam rooms, which are hidden in cabinets (1) to keep them out of the way when not in use. A recessed area under the computer desk allows the stool (2) to be rolled away when not in use. Transom windows (3) above the doors let natural light in from the clerestory windows. The artwork ( in the exam rooms features pictures of the practice's history.


A welcoming entrance: Just off the reception area is a spot designated for client refreshments. After choosing the snack or bevarage item they'd like, clients can wait on cushioned banks of benches for their appointment. A nook off the reception area offers fresh-baked cookies (1), bottled water (2) and coffee. Cushioned benches (3) provide comfortable spaces to wait. In this space, an archway leads to the exam room corridor.



His other goals included building a hospital that reflected the practice's high level of patient and client care, and to build large enough to allow for continued growth and expansion of services.

Dr. Hughes says his prayers for the practice were answered when his real estate agent showed him an ugly, old warehouse. “The first time I saw the building, I looked at my agent in disgust,” he says. “But after several days of thinking it through, I realized the building had tremendous potential and it solved virtually all of our problems.”

That ugly warehouse became a beautiful 17,000-square-foot showcase for care.

Focus on art elements

Personal touches make practice spaces feel homey: Do you have photos of your practice's history, events you've hosted or photos of staff members with their pets or clients? Put them up in your practice! The personalized artwork can give your practice a homey feel that clients will love. Dr. Hughes chose to use photos of the practice's history at Conejo Valley, including some of Dr. Robert Miller from when he worked with exotic animals in the 1950s and 1960s (seen above with an elephant and chimpanzee), and their 1967 Hospital Design Competition win.

Click here for a full photo tour of Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital.

Sarah A. Moser is a freelance writer and editor in Lenexa, Kansas.

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