Dr. Beth Spencer leads a team at Goodheart Animal Health Center who live up to the name, by treating all pets like family. We were able to catch up with her about her vision and mission at this new space.
Beth, you have found yourself working in a field you love, and it shows. Can you give us a peek into your background leading up to Goodheart Animal Health Center?
I loved animals growing up and always expected to be a wildlife biologist. In high school and college, I did several field research projects, including ones on sea turtles and wolves. I realized that while I loved the animals, I did not enjoy writing grants and working in labs. I tore cartilage in my wrist during college and had to have surgery. My orthopedic surgeon clearly loved his job and drew detailed pictures for me and talked me through all possible surgical outcomes. I was hooked on medicine. I just wanted to keep the animals in the picture, so vet med was a no brainer. I went straight to the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine after getting my Bachelor of Science in undergrad.
I never thought about business in vet school, but I was asked to lead each of the three vet hospitals I worked at since graduation. The result was that I have learned to love leadership in this field. I also discovered that my leadership and business goals are slightly different from what else is out there. I am very excited that with Goodheart, I can make changes to enhance the lives of my team, our clients, our patients, and our community.
How did you find yourself in Colorado?
My parents were both teachers while I was growing up in Cleveland. We would often pile into the family station wagon and “head west” for weeks at a time during summer vacation. We were constantly hiking and enjoying being outdoors, and Colorado was just the right fit. I explored the East coast during undergrad. While I love the history out East, I missed the lifestyle Colorado had to offer. I knew that after vet school I wanted to find my way back here.
Coloradans would go to great lengths for their pets. Tell us what sets your center apart from the rest?
Transparency – we have a very open-door policy at Goodheart We simply separate exam rooms from our treatment area (“the back”) with a huge glass wall so clients can see whatever they want to see. Our vets our Fear Free certified and we really work hard to make it comfortable for our patients. Whether it is administering vaccines to cats while they eat tuna or letting a dog play fetch down the hall, we want to make it less scary.
We also utilize tools to enhance our client communication such as texting or overnight phone availability. We work on understanding the client’s goals for their pet care right from the moment we set the appointment. We train our team in communication skills to help make sure we are getting our clients’ full agenda. We listen!
You’ve only been open for a few months and already, your center has donated 7K. Can you tell us more about this?
Giving is another cornerstone of filling our bucket. Goodheart participates in Connect for Care, a coordinated effort between the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association and participating shelters. Goodheart donates up to $250 in care for shelter related illnesses during the first two weeks post adoption.
We also helped pets from Dumb Friends League who were challenging to place due to their significant medical needs. We donated $500 in medical care to each of these owners to help get them started. Both pets are happy in their new homes and we have enjoyed seeing them blossom over the past two months.
We love that your mission is to connect with students, whether they are pursuing a career working with animals or not, it would be very therapeutic for a typical stressful day in the life of a high school student. What do these tours look like and what is your mission?
Goodheart’s mission is to invest in our community. We want to bring awareness to students about the profession, ways to care for their pets, safe behavior around pets, as well as about zoonotic disease. (A zoonotic disease is one that can be transferred between animals and people.) We also want to model communication styles for students and provide a safe place for questions. These communication tools are great at home and in the rest of the students’ lives.
Tours usually involve answering questions about how we practice and what the students see: Why do we have scales? How do we use math in everyday practice? What exactly is anesthesia? How do we use lab work to better understand our pets? We show them items under the microscope, x-rays and whatever else interests them.
We work with a large variety of students, from elementary students with our Vet for a Day program, to middle school students and high school students with Community Resources Inc. I help coach the CSU vet students in communication, as well as host 4th year vet students at the hospital during their externships. Teaching also keeps us on our toes!
Finally, as you mention, we have all heard about studies noting that animals can bring great emotional relief for not only students, but humans of all ages. We recognize what a gift it is when someone trusts us with that bond.
It has become quite taboo to purchase a pet from a breeder, when there are so many pets in shelters, that need forever homes. How does Goodheart work with shelters currently?
In addition to the Connect for Care program, we will do a free first exam for any new shelter adoption.
We love that your center is in a historical building. Do you know the history of your new location?
Yes! This building was originally the Goodheart Laundry building – and about 100 years old. It was a huge operation with over 100 employees. The second floor (which we do not occupy) even had a laundry chute that was closed during construction. Our big historic double doors on Dakota were where laundry was pushed out of the building back in the day. And, if you look closely, you can see the original Goodheart Laundry sign on the stack on top of the building, as well as intricate little hearts stamped into the brick and stone of the building.
What can we expect from Goodheart in the future?
We will continue to build relationships with other groups in the community. We are planning on having a booth at the Furry Scurry in May to answer questions from participants (and support those hot puppies). We are hosting a cardiology specialty group in February to provide education for owners about diet and heart disease. We continue to provide communication training to our entire team. We hope to add at least one other doctor to our team this year to increase our availability for clients. We hope it is a happy refuge for our patients and clients.
Thank you for doing the work you do, not only for our beloved pets, but for the community. We hope you receive the same warm welcome as our pets receive from you and your kind staff. To learn more, visit goodheart.vet.