As emergency veterinarians in Missoula, Luke Anderson, Rebecca Kerscher, and Anna Odash recognized a gap in veterinary care in Missoula: specialized medicine. Throughout their careers, they encountered pet patients that needed specialty care and it wasn't often available in western Montana. They also saw their colleagues’ need for referral emergency care.
“The veterinary community is small and tight-knit in Missoula,” Rebecca explained. “We had a shared vision for what to create.”
Talking with other vets in the Missoula area solidified their vision: a vet clinic dedicated to emergency and specialty care for small animals.
“It was really the influence of the community,” Luke explained. “We offer a client- and community-oriented service and we really hope to be an asset to the Missoula community.”
Together, the trio formed Sentinel Veterinary Medical Center (SVMC), a facility first dedicated to emergency veterinary care with specialized medical care.
“Both services benefit all of the primary care vets in Missoula and the surrounding area,” Anna explained.
Pets with complicated or urgent conditions need specific care and while primary care veterinarians can identify problems, their practices aren’t always equipped to handle emergency situations, be it time (pets don’t always get sick or injured during regular business hours), staffing, or expertise. SVMC opened on April 27, 2020, providing emergency care, a career passion of each of the three partners.
“Personally, I very much appreciate being a part of the most difficult circumstances that pet owners face,” Rebecca said. “Whether their pet survives, or whether they end up saying goodbye, we get the chance to help them through that.”
Anna agrees, and finds emergency veterinary medicine to be fulfilling, on a scientific level and on a personal level.
“Some cases are like solving a puzzle,” she said. “Building a relationship with an owner, whether through a night or a weekend with their pet is really special. Then you see them in public at a dog park weeks later. It’s very rewarding.”
Emergency and urgent care come with difficult and challenging cases, situations that the partners strive to meet with compassion and care, involving pet owners in every part of the decision-making process about their pet’s care.
“I really like the problem solving that comes with emergency care,” Luke explained. “Not only fixing the pet, but also how to listen to clients and figuring out how to provide relief for both the pet and the family.”
Some pets require care beyond an emergency visit or a routine veterinary checkup. SVMC will add specialized services such as advanced imaging, internal medicine, and oncology through a partnership with Bridger Veterinary Specialists in Bozeman.
“Veterinary medicine has advanced to more specialized care,” Rebecca said. “We are following human medicine in that way.”
Expanding the veterinary care available to pets in western Montana is a passion for Luke, Rebecca, and Anna. They see it as not only a way to serve animals and their human families but as an opportunity to help their fellow veterinarians.
“Our goal is to have every veterinarian providing the best care possible,” Luke explained. He sees the relationship between SVMC and primary care veterinarians as a symbiotic one where primary care veterinarians can focus on primary care, with the option to refer pets with specialty needs to SVMC.
Anna hopes their presence in Missoula will lower the stress level for veterinarians and help to erase the culture of burnout within the veterinary profession by offering state-of-the-art care and a local option for pet owners and veterinarians.
“Montana is notorious for having to travel long distances for medical care, for humans and pets,” Anna explained. “The ability to provide a service in western Montana for such a fantastic community is an incredible opportunity.”
Sentinel Veterinary Medical Center