Specialty practice grows out of dot-com bust

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San Francisco Veterinary Specialists (SFVS) bills itself as the only specialty referral hospital in the city, offering internal medicine, dentistry, oncology, surgery, ophthalmology and holistic care.

San Francisco Veterinary Specialists (SFVS) bills itself as the only specialty referral hospital in the city, offering internal medicine, dentistry, oncology, surgery, ophthalmology and holistic care.

But the practice, with onsite laboratory and diagnostic services, features more than specialized medicine. Recently moved from 2,000-square-feet of leased space, SFVS now calls a former dot-com site in the city's Mission District home. Two floors spanning 11,000 square feet contain six exam rooms, two surgical suites and an Antech laboratory armed with a clinical pathologist. But state-of-the-art equipment and services do little to overshadow the building's trendy design theme.

Exposed ductwork, wood beams and a laminate floor that appears dyed concrete give the hospital an industrial feel. Modern lighting and skylights add an airy element, says part owner Dr. Carlo Vitale.

SFVS is located in San Francisco's Mission district. The practice spans two floors and 11,000 square feet, comprised of six exam rooms, two surgical suites and an Antech laboratory armed with a clinical pathologist.

"We're still redesigning to add a room for CE and plenty of office space," says Vitale, DVM, DACVD. "This place has been amazing for us. We were busting at the seams at our other location."

Economic collapse brings opportunity

Simply finding real estate for purchase in San Francisco is a large feat in itself. The market, which typically sees roughly 1 percent of the area's property for sale, has opened since Silicon Valley's economic collapse, Vitale says. Most buyers snap up property before it ever hits the market, he adds.

"Without the economic downturn, I don't see how we would have had the opportunity to buy," Vitale says. "With the vacancy rate so tight, buyers run into huge bidding wars. We certainly were fortunate to find this space."

Dr. Carlo Vitale removes a cattail from the paw of one of his patients.

Holistic approach

More breathing room provides SFVS the freedom to expand. Next month, the hospital will add after-hour emergency care to its list of features. And an increasing blend of alternative modalities adds options for the hospital's 30-plus patients SFVS encounters each day.

"We offer acupuncture, herbal therapy and Chinese medicine," Vitale says. "Now we're adding chiropractic medicine to the list."

While alternative medicine isn't mainstream, Vitale insists holistic practitioner Molly Rice, DVM, CVA, often is booked.

"We take a blended approach to medicine here," he says. "Having holistic care provides us with a lot of interplay between Western and Eastern medicine. Having input from other specialties I'm convinced improves patient care at our clinic."

San Francisco Veterinary Specialists

Competition ahead

While SFVS grows at least 25 percent annually, Vitale and his partners anticipate the emergence of a specialty referral hospital attached to the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is located roughly two blocks away. Groundbreaking for the Leanne B. Roberts Medical Center kicks off next month, and Vitale says he's not worried about the expansion.

"Our clinic is not at all concerned about the competition," he says. "We have a commitment and relationship with the veterinary community. We'll continue, as always, to practice high-quality medicine."

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