The grass is greener


Dr. Charles Pullen was ectstatic when he learned his Animal Medical & Surgical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., was the 2008 Hospital of the Year.

Dr. Charles Pullen first heard the news from his daughter Lindsey. He was coming out of one surgery and heading to another when Lindsey approached him, together with his practice manager and business manager. They said they wanted to talk in his office. Dr. Pullen told them he didn't have time and asked if this was something that could wait, but they told him it would just take a minute. A little perturbed, Dr. Pullen agreed to meet with them. "They pulled me into the office and Lindsey said, 'I want to tell you that your greatest dream has come true.' I said, 'Which one?' And she told me we won Hospital of the Year," Dr. Pullen says. "We all shouted and jumped around like we were at a football game."

The look of a winner: Pop-up rooflines, attractive overhangs, arched windows, and subtle earth tones give Animal Medical & Surgical Center the look of a professional medical complex without the industrial feeling. Dr. Charles Pullen wanted the hospital to be situated among other professional medical buildings, not gas stations and fast food restaurants. Photo by Al Payne, A.F.Payne Photographic Inc.

Floor Plan: Animal Medical & Surgical Center. Photos by Jessica Costillon and Stephen M. Pullen.

Dr. Pullen's dream of a new facility was a slow-moving one. Although he'd thought about building for several years, he wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea at first. His old hospital was in a part of town that had seen better days, but it was paid for and his overhead was low—he was making a profit. But being a perfectionist, he wasn't thrilled about the impression his 3,000-square-foot, 30-year-old building made on new clients and referral practices. And when he looked ahead to his retirement, he wondered what kind of facility would truly reflect the accomplishments he'd achieved during his career. It didn't take long to come up with the answer: a Mayo Clinic for pets. "People ask me why I did this at the end of my career," Dr. Pullen says. "For me it's an investment."

Get the look: A welcoming reception. Photo by Al Payne, A.F.Payne Photographic Inc.

Surgery: Dr. Pullen spends the majority of his time in surgery, so he designed the suite exactly how he wanted it. The three operating tables are arranged so they can all be serviced by the same instrument room. The floor-to-ceiling glass wall creates a major-surgery suite for advanced procedures and prevents air movement from the minor-surgery suite-without making the two spaces feel closed in. A remote-controlled camera allows clients to observe their pets' surgery and also records the procedure on DVD for clients or referring doctors. Photo by Stephen M. Pullen.

Once he decided to get the project under way, Dr. Pullen designed the floor plan himself. "I had the design in my head," he says. "I knew what I wanted from working and visiting other hospitals." He worked nights for six weeks to get the plan drawn and then he hired an architect to design a site plan. And he was fortunate to have found a piece of land that fit the floor plan perfectly. The result, with some fine-tuning, was a center hub containing surgery and treatment areas surrounded by ancillary services.

Photos by Al Payne, A.F.Payne Photographic Inc. and Jessica Castillon.

Feline boarding: Each condo is equipped with a patented active ventilation system constructed entirely of PVC, including the fans, to eliminate all odors in this area. Fresh air enters the condo through ventilation holes in the front door and is actively exhausted through the condo and then outside with several exchanges per hour. If a condo is soiled, it's cleaned immediately. A full-time team member exclusively handles all the housekeeping and laundry duties. In order to further prevent odor, no paper products are used for cleaning, only white towels, blankets, or artificial sheepskins are used. Photo by Stephen M. Pullen.

Matching expectations

During the building process, there were times when Dr. Pullen wondered what he had gotten himself into. His project was delayed for a year because of subcontractors' errors: Fountains were installed in the wrong place, trusses had to be re-engineered, and so on. He says he was up at 4 a.m. every day for three years, e-mailing his contractor. But thanks to a responsive and dedicated contractor, developer, and architect, these problems were overcome, resulting in a building that was precisely what Dr. Pullen wanted.

A look at the numbers: Animal Medical & Surgical Center. Photo by Stephen M. Pullen.

Exam room: The hospital has six exam rooms. The two larger ones are used for large-breed dogs. Each room is equipped with a networked, wall-mounted computer and video screen, which gives the team access to medical records, radiographs, or video showing clients the inside of the pet's mouth or ear canal. Exam tables were rounded to eliminate sharp corners. Photo by Jessica Castillon.

Once Dr. Pullen was settled into the new building, even though he was fully aware of each expense the project had incurred, he still had a bit of sticker shock when the bills started coming in. "When you don't have a mortgage payment for years and then all of a sudden you have a $37,000 payment every month and $2 million of your own money in a new building, it's a sacrifice," he says. But he says it's worth it and has paid off—his practice has seen a 65 percent increase in gross revenue the first year since the move.

Treatment area: This is the nerve center for medical and surgical procedures. There are four treatment tables-three are used for minor surgeries, wound or skin preparation, and dental procedures. The fourth is designed for anesthesia induction. From this central area, patients can be taken to surrounding areas for radiography, surgery, ICU, endoscopy, or ultrasound. The treatment area also includes a workstation with three computers so that the doctors can maintain complete medical records. The large whiteboard coordinates all the ongoing treatments for every patient in the hospital. Photo by Al Payne, A.F.Payne Photographic Inc.

Animal Medical & Surgical Center is a facility that Dr. Pullen is proud to practice in. Now when new clients visit, the surroundings match his expectations of himself and what he tries to achieve. "I put myself out there as having a tradition of excellence," he says, "and now my building reflects that."

A closer look

Bring the outside in

Dr. Charles Pullen wanted to bring the beauty of Arizona into his new facility. To maximize this effect, the architect incorporated a lot of glass into the design, as well as natural stone and tile and water elements.

Stairwell: The architect made this area a feature of the building by designing multiple clusters of nine windows. This creates a dramatic view from the outside at night and gives the appearance that the stairs are floating in mid-air. During the day, the windows provide an aesthetically pleasing "room of light," rather than a drab, standard stairwell. The nearby McDowell Mountains are also visible through the windows.

Photo by Jessica Castillon.

Water element: The hospital's entry has a water feature with a trellis and an arched canopy. Plants and trees that attract hummingbirds were chosen. The landscaping and the water feature give visitors the feeling that they are entering a garden—and these elements are also visible from the inside of the building through the glass entryway.

Photo by Jessica Castillon.

Your chance to win

Is your facility the 2009 Hospital of the Year?

Did you build the hospital of your dreams—or are you about to? Enter it in our next Hospital Design Competition. We encourage hospitals of all sizes and practice types to compete. The 2009 entry form will be available soon.

Are you still in the planning stages? Mark your calendars for the 2008 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference Aug. 20 to 22 in Kansas City, Mo. At the conference you'll get expert advice from veterinary architects and financial advisors on developing an effective floor plan, procuring financing, and more. Call (800) 255-6864, ext. 4233, for detailed information.

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