Compassionate vet clinic cares for animals across 3 states

Compassionate vet clinic cares
for animals across 3 states

When Erica Koller was growing up on the rolling prairies outside Edgemont, she spent time trailing Stephanie Stevens, DVM, to learn more about the essential work of veterinarians.

“When I was in high school, I would come in every once in a while, and watch what she did if there was a surgery,” she says. “I rode along with her and asked questions.”

After finishing veterinary school in Iowa, Erica returned to the place she called home to work at the Cheyenne River Animal Hospital – with Stephanie Stevens welcoming her as a coworker. Since then, other veterinarians including Lacy DeGering, AnnaMarie Eick, and Olivia Lakatosh have joined the team to help fill the need in the community.

Support across states

In this small ranching town in the far southwest corner of South Dakota, veterinarians are always in need of help caring for their many patients in a tri-state area. This small team of veterinarians have cared for over 15,000 cattle this past year alone.

“The majority of the animals we see are cattle, horses, dogs, and cats,” says Erica. “Although, our small animal aspect has gotten a little bit broader. We’ll see the occasional ferret, bearded dragon, guinea pig, skunk, or raccoon.”

Sometimes the veterinarians travel to see large animal patients while their clinic cares for smaller animals and houses many surgeries. Some clients have been with them for as long as two decades.

Passionate pet care

Having such a large responsibility and meeting their community’s needs is no simple task. But Lacy DeGering says the support they receive is what drives them.

“Having grown up in the area, the passion that we have for our community – and we’ve had it since we were little girls – that’s what keeps us going despite the stress,” says Lacy.

For the staff at the hospital, these personal connections mean so much more in rural areas. They care for new clients constantly along with the pets of friends, family, and even other veterinarians. When the team has devoted so much time to their bonds with others, they can trust each other and work efficiently. Golden West services also help keep them working as a cohesive unit to allow business to run smoothly.

“We’re so much more efficient, being able to talk to people and triage or decide if they need to be seen right away,” Erica says. “So, we rely on our internet a lot.”

With their service, they can access reports, confirm appointments, review spreadsheets, and utilize cloud-based technology. Their phone and internet connection allows them to maintain a professional quality of care for their patients in the large rural area they serve.

Future animal experts

Veterinary help is always in high demand, especially in places that serve large areas. According to Mars Veterinary Health, an estimated 55,000 more veterinarians will be needed in less than a decade. Fostering the development of anyone interested in the field is vital for the success of places just like the Cheyenne River Animal Hospital.

The next generation of veterinarians for the Cheyenne River Animal Hospital may be growing up in the area now. A few middle and high school students have started following in Erica’s footsteps, visiting the clinic often.

The animal hospital is working with the State of South Dakota to mentor employees through an emerging apprenticeship program, so they can become certified veterinary assistants. Soon, the opportunities that Stephanie and other veterinarians had to learn from other professionals at the clinic will be available to current and future aspiring youngsters in the field.

“We love teaching, and I love that every single person on this team is great at both teaching and instructing,” says Erica.


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