After 40 years of practicing veterinary medicine, he is hanging up his stethescope and turning over his practice to his predecessor.
Dr. Don Sievers opened Slater Animal Hospital in 1990 after spending almost two decades working at Sievers Vet Clinic in Slater with his older brother. He became interested in veterinary medicine as a result of growing up on a farm near Albert City in northwest Iowa, where his family raised livestock and had several dogs and cats. He attended Iowa State University for both his undergraduate work and veterinary medical school, graduating in 1973. Up until three years ago Sievers had a mixed practice, caring for animals of all sizes. Arthritis caused him to limit his veterinary services to dogs and cats in recent years.
During his time as a veterinarian, Sievers has witnessed a number of changes in the veterinary field that have come about as the result of agricultural changes. When he first began practicing, there were very few veterinarians in the central Iowa area, especially ones for large animals. Farmers would have to travel quite a distance in order to have their animal looked at. Now there is a large animal veterinarian in Ankeny, as well as the veterinary facilities at ISU. Another change Sievers has noticed is the value placed on the family dog or cat. In earlier years, Sievers said about 10 percent of animals cared for by vets were dogs and cats. Now he is able to make a living caring just for those species.
"Pets have become a part of the family," Sievers said.
While he does not have a favorite memory of his years as a veterinarian, he has enjoyed interacting with his clients and forming a professional relationship with all of them.
"Just about every farmer around here I can tell you something about them," Sievers said.
Practicing in another community "was never an option" for Sievers. He began practicing with his brother so his wife could continue teaching in Nevada. He and his wife raised their children in Slater and they have been happy in the Ballard community.
"Slater’s been a wonderful place to practice," Sievers said.
Sievers’ last day at the clinic he started in 1990 is Friday, Feb. 28. After retirement, Sievers and his wife will remain living in Huxley, though they plan to spend time visiting their children and grandchildren, all of whom live several hours away. A shock to Sievers during retirement will be not having to work on Saturdays. Sievers said ever since growing up on a farm, working on Saturdays was a normal thing. He continued that habit after he began practicing as a veterinarian. In addition to visiting family, he also will occupy his time caring for and doing bookwork for the farms he and his wife own, as well as continuing his involvement as a Master Gardener.
The decision to turn over his practice to a new veterinarian came about six months ago when Dr. Beth Wilkinson called inquiring about a job. After working out the legalities of the transfer of ownership, Wilkinson will officially take over the practice March 1.
Wilkinson has been working at Avondale Veterinary Health Complex in Des Moines for the past five years. She said she was attracted to Slater because of its proximity to where she grew up, and both she and her husband have family in the area. She graduated from North Polk High School and studied animal science as an undergraduate at ISU. After that she enrolled in the college’s veterinary medicine program, from which she graduated in 2007.
Wilkinson will continue Sievers’ practice of caring for small animals. She said she does not have much training in caring for large animals, but with the veterinary facilities at ISU, she said there is not much of a need for large animal vets in the area.
She plans to bring a modern approach to veterinary care, but does not plan to make any changes to the clinic or the level of care clients have come to expect.
"Keep it going and improve on what he’s been doing," Wilkinson said are her plans.
When she is not busy caring for animals, Wilkinson can be found spending time with her kids, fishing and camping. She and her husband, Brian, along with their two children - Kelsi, 5, and Tyler, 1 - live in Gilbert. They are hoping to find a place to live in Slater.
"I hope she enjoys it as much as I do and is financially successful," Sievers said. "I think she’ll do really well.