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VOL. 130 | NO. 125 | Monday, June 29, 2015


McGehee Animal Clinic Focuses on Close Family Connections

By Madeline Faber

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Dr. Norris McGehee always knew that he wanted to be a veterinarian. His father was an architect and his brothers went on to be engineers, but McGehee was attracted to a different family practice.

His uncle, Dr. Eugene McGehee, founded the McGehee Clinic for Animals in 1958. The younger McGehee's first job was helping out at his uncle's practice, and he was inspired to go on the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Obviously my uncle was very impressionable on me. He was a great influence and very much of a role model for me," McGehee said.

Three years after his 1987 graduation, McGehee purchased the practice from his uncle and brought on 20 more staff members and far more sophisticated technology while maintaining a focus on serving the Memphis community.

Norris McGehee, owner of McGehee Clinic For Animals, with Arley in his East Memphis practice. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

McGehee's own special interests include cardiology, internal medicine and orthopedic surgery. Like most of his classmates, he could have taken those interests to work outside of the private practice field in universities, research facilities, the U.S. Army or zoos.

"I was exposed to that in vet school, and I was tempted," he said. "But obviously I really enjoyed the practitioner side of things and practicing medicine. That's what kept me in the loop."

He said that close connections with families are what attracted him to a private practice. "You get great satisfaction from helping the pets recover from injuries or just maintaining wellness because obviously the pets are there because the people bring them in, and the pets are really considered part of their family,” he said.

However, McGehee does put his skills to work outside of his business. He serves on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is past president of the Memphis and Shelby County Veterinary Medical Association.

During the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine's 2015 commencement, McGehee's alma mater formally recognized his accomplishments and awarded him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award for private practice.

"The nominations are based on what you've done, what you've contributed to the community, society and back to the school and whatever methods you can do to further your vet practice," he said.

Aside from changes due to a 2007 remodel, McGehee still operates in the original 5,100-square-foot building at 712 Mount Moriah Road. Unlike his uncle's single-doctor practice, McGehee has three other associates each specializing in a different area of veterinary medicine.

Dr. Megan Arevalo, an accredited pet acupuncturist, Dr. Melissa Barnes, a sports medicine rehab specialist, and Dr. Sherrie O'Brien, the previous owner of the Cat Hospital of Memphis, round out McGehee's team.

"Four (practicing veterinarians) is a perfect number because it allows everybody to have their own personal time off away from work and still be able cover all the needs of the pets and the practice," he said. "We challenge everybody to continue education and to progress to a further degree. I believe strongly in personal time and personal growth as individuals as well as hoping to incorporate growth of the hospital itself."

McGehee has routinely sought out higher training and accreditations for his practice. In 1988, the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Canine and Feline Practice certified him as a Diplomate.

He has special training in performing cardiac ultrasounds, echocardiograms and the tibial tuberosity advancement surgical procedure to repair torn cruciate ligaments. And the clinic is certified by the American Animals Hospital Association.

"Four to five percent of the nation's vet hospitals are certified by this organization, and it just helps to provide and differentiate us as a top notch and certified hospital," he added.

The McGehee Clinic for Animals' structure limits any physical growth, so McGehee is more focused on his practice's community footprint.

"So at this point as far as growth, it's just trying to learn and provide exceptional services and just stay present in the current market, try to be good neighbors and good stewards of what we're able to do and keep everybody happy both from a competition standpoint as well as providing good services to our clientele.”

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