Scott Thompson, DVM, Medical Director
Born in a small town in western part of Washington, I was raised in the even smaller lumber mill and cow town of Anderson, California. A west coast son and youngest of 4 children born New England parents: father a CPA for lumber company and mother a ‘good old fashioned’ City Hostess for a town of 300. I spent my youth barefoot and wearing cut-off shorts from prior year’s school pants roaming wide open spaces enjoying ranches and orchards, visiting mills, swimming in rivers, creeks and ponds. When I did not make it home for lunch, I grazed on wild berries, nuts and fruit borrowed from orchard trees and warm raw eggs from ranch hen houses. I knew when milking time was at the dairy for a glass of fresh cow body temperature milk. I never got good at hand milking cows, however! It seems, however, that I never seemed to arrive at home without pockets full of bugs or birds, snakes, frogs, rabbits and anything else I could befriend or dissect. On my wanderings, I collected releasable baby toads and frogs that I sold 3 for 10 cents to the neighborhood families to keep bugs and flies down. And so the path to being a veterinarian and entrepreneur was formed.
On my 13th birthday, 1964, I was awarded the honor of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. I got those silly good grades in school and was becoming an entrepreneur. I worked at the local printing company, dry cleaners and the local variety store. I had my residential and vendor paper routes; mowed lawns and did pet sitting; I sold greeting card, soap, candy and nuts door to door. In the summers now I had to trade my bareback and bare feet for a tee shirt and pair of Converse sneakers that pedaled me miles and miles each week on my Western Flyer bicycle doing my ‘jobs’. School buses did not have bike racks back then and I worked after school each day, so I bicycled to school, rain or shine, 6 miles each way and only one was uphill!!. Once a month I collected current issue magazines from donors and delivered them to the rest homes, house bound people and to people of our Methodist Church who could not afford them. As my father’s health was failing, from WWII military related kidney disease, I took a greater role in caring for him. His kidney disease eventually culminated in going onto hemodialysis in early 1964. When he was accepted to have a Drake-Willock hemodialysis machine, installed at our home, I was selected to be trained with mom on how to clean, sterilize, service and connect dad to the machine, via the Quinton-Scribner indwelling Teflon dialysis cannula, for nocturnal dialysis. In the mid 1960’s dad had 2 kidney transplants, albeit unsuccessful, I learned a lot about medicine spending hours read patient charts, under the scowling nurse’s eyes at SF Medical. Yet another step towards a goal in medicine was formed.
I became even more self-sufficient, and around the town I was a mini icon entrepreneur at only 4’ tall. In high school, not reaching 5’ tall until my junior year, I was the mini smarty pants that the upper class men liked to use as an unwilling dumpster diver, [never was anything useful in them except garbage], and then after several garbage dunks: chuck me into the canal. At least I was clean and dry by the time I got home. It was not as bad as it seems when years later the same ‘jocks’ thanked me for tutoring them through math and science. After the purchase of a 1955 Chevy, in 1967, I had greater mobility. For $1.00 a day, I chauffeured the math teacher to and from school, just as had my older brother until he graduated. That job had the perk of keeping me out of the dumpster, but boy did I get grilled hard on any missed test questions and not just on math tests but all tests!! I was not allowed to start the car until I had answered all missed questions correctly. FYI gas was $0.17 a gallon then so I showed a profit each month. I was becoming a businessman.
My passion for veterinary medicine was solidified while working at the Asher Veterinary Clinic in Redding, CA. I had already been accepted to the University of California, Davis when I graduated from high school at age 17. Within a month of high school graduation, I had secured a part time retail clerk job at Pay ‘N Save, purchased a small mobile home, and moved my cat and me to Davis, California. I had help from home, my savings and a pile of honors, honorariums and scholarships in science academics that helped fund my first year at UCD. Sadly at only 44 years of age dad died as my freshman year at UCD was ending. Now I had to put all my early education to work and prove I could pay for my own education and become the veterinarian I strived to be.
Now working full time, with being awarded a 4 year scholarship from the Oakland Scottish Rite / Scaife Scholarship Foundation, we fast forward to application to and acceptance to UCD School of Veterinary Medicine. After just 3 years of undergraduate studies, I had also been accepted to UC San Francisco School of Medicine with a full ride scholarship and offer of Fellowship in transplantation medicine. However, I followed my first love in medicine and in the fall of 1972 at age 20, married for 2 years, I started my official veterinary education. I turned 20 during my first week of classes along with the announcement that our first child was in the oven. Cheri was born in March 1973 and my Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Science was awarded.
The next four years were a blur of grueling class schedules, challenging curriculum content, VMTH [Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital] tour director, diapers and toddler, work, senior class treasurer, and camaraderie with 94 classmates. We ushered in the pilot program for the new wave veterinary education track programs. We survived the Vietnam War, campus unrest and social revolution of the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. As a class we were known as the Spirit ’76 celebrating our graduation with the 200th birthday of the USA. And a spirited class, we were breaking about every school rule there was and won nearly every “battle” for change that we stood for in improvement in education and patient care. We were class that produced more future professors, researchers, Diplomats, veterinary military officers and other notables in veterinary medicine than any class in recent school history. As I entered by 4th year of vet school, it was announced that I was to be a father, again. Just weeks before our National and State Board exams, Jeremy was board in April of 1976.
Graduation came in June 1976 and I found myself employed back in the practice where I had worked as a kennel boy. I was the wet-behind-the-ears Veterinarian, who had just had braces removed from his teeth and younger that most of the other employees and staff Veterinarians. Now at 24, cutting my college long hair and full beard, I entered clinical practice looking like a 12 year old baby faced kid. My talents were soon appreciated by clients and in 1978 I bought into the Asher Veterinary Clinic as a junior partner.
1980 brought significant changes with a divorce and the opportunity to purchase the practice outright. With the help of a prime plus 5 % adjustable SBA loan, I was “the” boss and sole practice owner. The early ‘80’s proved a challenging time to have a variable note when prime went to 23% and I was paying the government 28% interest on my loan. Determined spirit, hard work, leading by example and past experiences I not only survived the economic times, but also grew the practice to 5 full time veterinarians. As a down side, we were out growing the physical building we were in, even though we could house 132 pets at any one time. I paid off my SBA loan and it was time to expand.
In 1989 I selected the site for my expansion into a second hospital. Along with construction I was managing a thriving hospital, 24 hours emergency service and nearly 50 employees: challenging to say the least! In 1990 I opened my second hospital in Redding: the Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital. During this time, I had been appointed by then Governor Jerry Brown to sit on the Board of Visitors for the School of Veterinary Medicine and eventually invited to sit on the Commission to select a new Dean for the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Though all of this I had an epiphany, I had too much management and not enough medicine; too much work and not enough fun!
In 1991 I sold the Asher Veterinary Clinic to VCA and in 1993 I sold the Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital to VCA. After recovering from a 1994 devastating injury, it was time to pursue my real passion: feline medicine and surgery. This decision predicated I had to leave my home town of 40+ years. December 1995, I opened the Feline Medical Center in Reno, Nevada. Yahoo! Fast forward again 17 years and in 2013 I find myself in my middle sixties with a thriving feline exclusive practice and married 28 years to Judy Ann.
Another epiphany came to light. I decided after 35+ years of practice ownership to turn the reins over once again. I want to spend the next 7 years enjoying my clients and feline patients and not taking the baggage of management home every night. Once again, I sold my practice to VCA. I remain as a full time feline veterinarian with limited management duties: yippee!! I am the Medical Director for VCA-Feline Medical Center