Raising the bar in sports medicine


Not content with a nice veterinary facility, these doctors built Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group to rival the best in human medicine.

When Drs. Sherman and Debra Canapp tackle a project, they don't do anything halfway. That includes starting a veterinary practice—and building a new facility.

In 2005, Dr. Debra Canapp began doing veterinary rehabilitation work out of a room in an emergency clinic. Her husband, Dr. Sherman Canapp, worked at a clinic that often referred patients to his wife. When that clinic refused to bring Dr. Debra Canapp on board to do rehabilitation, the ball started rolling. Before long the two doctors joined forces and rented space in an emergency clinic that wasn't open during the day. "We outgrew that space in only a month," she says.

Patients strengthen joints and muscles with an underwater treadmill and a resistance pool. Rubber mats minimize slippage. (Photos by Robert Bartlett, bartlettimage)

Thus began their two-year process of building the "mother ship" of veterinary rehabilitation hospitals, otherwise known as Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine group. Located in Annapolis Junction, Md., VOSM serves clients from all over the world as one of the premier veterinary sports medicine facilities. And this year, the hospital won a Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award for excellence in design.


It's common for veterinarians to travel the country seeking ideas from other veterinary hospitals when building their own hospital. Touring facilities such as Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, though, isn't quite as common. But the Canapps visited numerous top-rate human hospitals seeking the best ideas for their own project.

"We wanted a large building that we could convert," Dr. Debra Canapp says. "We wanted the ability to conduct clinical research trials and have space for surgery and rehabilitation all under one roof."

In the Washington, D.C., area, where square footage comes at a premium, that was no small task. But they found a 16,000-square-foot warehouse in a business park that suited their needs. "We didn't want a stepping stone facility," she says. "If we were going in, we were going all in. I knew we offered very high-quality medicine, and we wanted a facility that reflected that to our clients. As a subspecialty, we needed to stand out."

And stand out they do. The practice features four surgery suites modeled after those at Johns Hopkins, complete with surround audio and digital radiography viewing with human surgical lights and instruments. Other standout features include a large canine gym for gait analysis, rubber flooring throughout to make walking easier for patients, a separate room for working and police dogs, a hydrotherapy room with two underwater treadmills and a swim/current pool, and a fully automated conference room for continuing education and national lectures.

A look at the numbers

Since clients often travel across the state—or even across the world—for care at VOSM, Drs. Sherman and Debra Canapp wanted to make their time at the practice comfortable. So they included nook seating in the waiting area to offer more privacy, a children's play area, and more upscale, homelike surroundings. A separate waiting area offers space for clients who spend the entire day at the hospital. In this area they enjoy a flat-screen TV and Internet access, snacks and drinks from the hospitality area, and cushy seating.

Last but not least, even team members feel spoiled in this facility. They have access to a full gym with iPod docking stations and flat-screen TVs and can kick back in an employee lounge equipped with a full kitchen.


Building a veterinary hospital is a chore on its own. But for Dr. Debra Canapp, it was just one of a number of things on her to-do list. Item number one? Have a baby. "I said, 'Give me 20 minutes to have the baby, and I'll get right back to practicing.'" And she wasn't far off.


While pregnant and on recommended bed rest, Dr. Canapp managed the day-to-day business of building the facility while maintaining her job as head rehabilitation therapist and medical director. Her advice: Hire professionals who know what they're doing so you can focus on your own business of veterinary medicine and surgery.

"I'd never built a veterinary facility before, and there's nothing that can really teach you everything except experience," she says. The Canapps hired Rauhaus Freedenfeld and Associates to design the building and its traffic flow. Then they put the interior design in the hands of Lena Munther-Andersen, who gave the facility the upscale European feel the doctors sought.

"We had a vision of a modern, comfortable place with warm colors and low lighting," she says. "I pictured the practice with a sleek restaurant feel. Lena brought her design to life and made the hospital what we wanted it to be."

Sarah Moser is a freelance writer and editor in Lenexa, Kan. Please send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com.

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