Local women veterinarians share their experiences around owning and running a business while keeping our pets healthy and safe

By Hilary Dartt

Although more women than men graduate from veterinary school each year, a small percentage of them go on to own veterinary practices.

In Prescott, though, several passionate women doctors own and run veterinary businesses. Among them (and their male counterparts), there is a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie. As the population grows, our local vets are busy, and they enjoy working together to keep our companions healthy and safe.

Such busy-ness also drives a focus on mental health in the field. Each doctor we interviewed for this story mentioned a sincere desire to work with their patients’ humans toward the best possible quality of life for pets. Most of them cited a desire, too, to balance or incorporate family life with their work … to achieve the best possible quality of life for themselves, too.

Granite Mountain Veterinary Hospital: Dr. Sarah Bason and Dr. Kat Siens

To the women who own Granite Mountain Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Sarah Bason and Dr. Kat Siens, quality of life is everything.

“It’s a veterinary-centric phrase,” Dr. Bason said during a recent interview, “in terms of, for example, what a dog’s quality of life looks like.”

However, lots of vets and employees of vets pour so much time, energy, and love into their patients that they end up with a lower quality of life than they’d like.

When Dr. Bason and Dr. Siens bought their business in 2020, they did so with a mission to support the best possible quality of life for the staff (including themselves) and the pets and humans they serve.

For Dr. Bason, becoming a vet was a childhood-dream-turned reality. In fact, her first job in the field was as a kennel assistant at Granite Mountain Veterinary Hospital when she was a teenager. She worked her way up to being a veterinary technician, and went on to earn her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Washington State University.

Dr. Siens’s story looks a bit different. As a child, she liked the idea of becoming a vet. But by the time she started college, she said, “I was like, ‘This is a lot of work.’” She loved animals but didn’t want the responsibility or liability of being a vet. So she went to work in a vet pathology lab, where, she said, “I was working with dead things. I thought, ‘This is the dream job. ‘” She found answers, ran her own lab, and felt content. The doctor there encouraged her to apply to vet school. After spending two and a half years at Ross University in the Caribbean and a year at Oregon State University, Dr. Siens and her husband settled in Prescott.

Dr. Siens met Dr. Bason when they both worked at Kachina Animal Hospital. They became fast friends, thanks to complementary personalities. Their paths diverged but met again when they worked together at Chino Valley Animal Hospital.

Then, in late summer 2020, Dr. Bason heard from Dr. Donald Szekely, Granite Mountain Veterinary Hospital’s founder and owner, that he was ready to sell.

Dr. Siens had just come back from maternity leave when Dr. Bason approached her with the idea to go into business together, but she jumped on the opportunity.

Now, a year later, Dr. Siens said, “We’re finding a rhythm. We’re getting this.”

With strengths in different categories, the two said, they’ve found a nice fifty-fifty balance as they strive to make their clinic a place that nourishes quality of life for everyone who enters, human or pet.

Dr. Siens loves working with behavior.

“It’s communication—understanding how to communicate with another animal,” she said. “I love seeing that improvement, and how that improves quality of life, the human-animal bond, all of it.”

And Dr. Bason enjoys working with geriatric patients.

“It’s just so nice in those last years of a pet’s life to maximize the quality of life and the time they get to spend with their owners. It’s really fulfilling.”

The Granite Mountain Veterinary Hospital team comprises two vets and 9 staff members. It is at 3073 Willow Creek Road in Prescott. For more information, visit http://granitemtnvet.com or call 928.771.1340.

Harmony Holistic Veterinary Care: Dr. Delia Macdonald, Dr. Tammy Pauletto, and Dr. Joy Fuhrman, owners, and Dr. Roxanne Batt, Dr. Ayse Washington, and Dr. Emily. Roth  

Animals are magical in their own right, and Dr. Delia Macdonald credits them with saving her life. She always wanted to be a vet, and now, along with fellow veterinarians Dr. Tammy Pauletto and Dr. Joy Fuhrman, owns Harmony Holistic Veterinary Care. These creative women have recently partnered with Companion Pet Partners out of California to better support their six-doctor, fast-growing clinic, which specializes in an integrative approach to pet health.

“We’ve worked hard to develop a unique veterinary practice,” Dr. Macdonald said. “We’re known for client care, personal relationships, and excellence in medicine. Companion Pet Partners support our vision and allow us to focus on our clients and patients. We are excited to be part of a bigger community of hospitals and to bring the benefit of integrative medicine to a larger audience.”

Because they want the practice to feel like a comfortable place to sit and have a conversation, rather than like a hospital, the Harmony owners designed their building to feel light and open. It is decorated with pictures of their patients and furniture from their own homes.

Their approach, too, is unique: “Other people’s ‘problem clients’ are our perfect clients,” Delia said. “We like to solve problems. I can’t fix everything, but I will stand next to you and look into the abyss. Medicine isn’t perfect. We need to acknowledge that and continue to strive for excellence.”

After graduating from veterinary school, Delia worked in northern Colorado with a vet who specialized in mixed animal medicine. She worked on bucking bulls, 4-H pigs, bison, and wildlife, including golden eagles, as well as all domestic animals.

“I was very lucky to have a mentor who really provided a great overall education,” she said.

Dr. Pauletto graduated from Prescott High School. After graduating with honors from vet school, she went on to be awarded Intern of the Year at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. She declined further specialty training to move home and be a “family vet” for the community she loves.

Dr. Fuhrman comes from South Africa, where she left her job as a CPA to pursue her true passion. She successfully completed a grueling combined DVM/MBA program at Colorado State University, followed by a fellowship in Anesthesiology. Joy excels in managing tough anesthesia cases and being a mentor to her colleagues.

Harmony Holistic Veterinary Care offers in-depth routine veterinary care, acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, food therapy, ozone therapy, spinal manipulation services, echocardiograms, ultrasound, and therapeutic laser services, as well as surgery (including high-risk and advanced dental procedures), equine acupuncture and more. Dr. Macdonald offers (and has advanced training in) in-home euthanasia.

Finally, the owners of Harmony take a unique approach to business ownership, one that represents how women really want to live. Most of the vets at Harmony work part-time so they have time to spend with their families. The clinic’s scheduling is unique, too, in that the appointments are longer so the doctors can spend more time with patients and their humans.  The owners of Harmony are committed to cultivating a workplace where doctors, technicians, and staff can thrive (which carries over to patients receiving high-quality care).

The Harmony Holistic team comprises six veterinarians and 23 employees. It is at 826 Sunset Ave. in Prescott. For more information, visit https://www.harmonyvetcare.com or call 928.445.7499.

High Desert House Calls DVM: Dr. Jesse Baxter, owner

“Being a veterinarian is who I am,” said Dr. Jesse Baxter, who owns High Desert House Calls DVM.

She didn’t start out with intentions of being a vet, much less owning a practice. After graduating with a biology degree from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Dr. Baxter lived in Flagstaff with her husband, Justin, while he finished up his undergrad.

There, she took a job at Canyon Pet Hospital, and, she said, “That was it. I had this moment of clarity—‘this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.’”

After a few years working there, she took the leap: she applied and was accepted to vet school at the University of Minnesota. Once she graduated, she and Justin returned to their hometown—Prescott. She worked in small animal medicine for 12 years.

Then, earlier this year, she decided she was ready to launch her own business.

“Starting a practice was a lot,” she said. “I never anticipated this and I love it. It’s such a cool thing to get to do.”

She started with house calls, and quickly built her business around that model.

“You take that fear factor out when you’re sitting in someone’s living room,” she said. “Plus, the slower pace of being in someone’s home is so nice. You get to appreciate not only who their pets are, but who they are, too. A lot of my time in small animal [practice] was just go, go, go. There’s something different about sitting down and hearing everybody’s story. You have time to pay attention, be aware, and discuss things with people.”

Her practice grew, and within a few months she had the opportunity to open a clinic. Now, she offers both house calls and in-clinic appointments.

Dr. Baxter has a passion for medicine, and ultrasound is her favorite diagnostic tool. She’s always using it, and bought her own machine when she launched High Desert.

“It’s such a cool diagnostic tool. You get this flow going, and you can see so much just by looking from the outside.”

Now, she performs ultrasounds for patients all over town, including those at other clinics.

Dr. Baxter definitely stays busy. She’s in the clinic all day Monday through Wednesday as well as Thursday and Friday mornings, while Thursday and Friday afternoons are devoted to house calls, and she makes house calls most days after work and on weekends. She has three kids and more than a dozen pets including dogs, goats, chickens, and cats.

She loves all of it: “It’s great to have time off, but it’s also great to have a place to go to that you love being.”

“This fell into place at the right time in my life,” she said of business ownership. “It was something I could do, and it’s something that works.”

The team at High Desert House Calls comprises one veterinarian and 5 staff. It is at 1526 Idylwild Road, Suite A in Prescott. For more information, visit https://www.highdesertdvm.com or call 928.800.5611.

Prescott Valley Pet Clinic: Dr. Dana Frank, owner, and Dr. Abigail Sullivan, Dr. Sandra Rogers, and Dr. Julianne Hoult