Thanks staff for his success
When Dr. John Swengel retires as medical director of VCA Swengel Animal Hospital on Friday, he will do so as a successful veterinarian. But he is quick to note that his success is largely due to his staff.
“I have a wonderful staff,” he said. “Some of them have been with me for more than 20 years. Others have been here more than 15 years. They would not stay here that long if they didn’t love what they were doing. People really put their trust in us.”
Swengel attended Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and was awarded his doctorate in 1971. He established his animal hospital in 1983, after practicing as a clinician at the Shelby Street Animal Clinic from 1971-83.
A member of the team to first successfully implant a pacemaker in a dog, Swengel touched on how his profession has advanced over the years. “Technology has really changed the way we do things. We used to manually develop X-rays, and now we have digital ones in six seconds. We can email them to specialists in radiology if we need to. Technology has enhanced our capabilities, and there are so many new drugs.”
Swengel, whose expertise is in general surgery and internal medicine, offered a few simple tips on what pet owners can do to keep their furry friends out of his office. “Keep all poisons out of reach of your pets, and if a car is leaking antifreeze, get it fixed because a couple laps of it will shut down a pet’s kidneys.
“And there are parasites in the soil of houseplants and outdoor sandboxes. Keep your pets away from them,” said Swengel, who sold the clinic to VCA Animal Hospital eight years ago. He and his wife, Anne, have two daughters, Julie and Jennie, and two grandchildren, London and Cruz.
Should the need for advanced veterinary care arise, VCA specialty hospitals stand ready to help. These clinics provide state-of-the-art care in such specialties as orthopedic surgery, physical therapy, advanced oncology and even such cutting-edge treatments as stem cell therapy.
Swengel isn’t completely walking away from his profession as he’s open to being called in when the hospital is in a bind. “They might call me occasionally, but it won’t be regularly.”
He is being replaced by Dr. Neal Villanueva, who has practiced at the hospital for three years.
“I want to spend more time with my grandkids,” he emphasized, “and I like to golf, ski and read.”
An open house was held Feb. 26 in honor of his retirement, and an estimated 500 well-wishers showed up at the hospital. “I can’t believe so many caring, kind people gave up part of their day to come see me. It was touching.”
Beth Baker, a technician supervisor at the hospital and a 27-year employee, said she is sorry to see Swengel leave. “We have known for a while this time was going to come. But he built a team that works well together. We are better than what he had hoped for. We will keep doing what we have been doing. We are here because of the pets. It’s a great work environment.”
Swengel’s clients have high praise for him and his staff.
“Everyone there is so kind to all the animals,” said Dianna Voida, a LifeLine flight nurse who has been taking her Yorkshire terriers to the hospital for about 25 years. “Dr. Swengel has a warm personality, and he always explains everything so well. You never hear him talking over anyone’s head. I am really going to miss him.
“I haven’t met a member of his staff that I don’t like. The girls at the desk are so sweet and friendly. You can tell that they really love animals.”
Voida’s daughter, Whitney Scott, also takes her Yorkie to the clinic. Her other daughter, Vanessa Scott, used the hospital before moving to the Northside.
Barb Simmerman, another longtime client, started using Swengel when her veterinarian, Dr. John Holobek, was killed in a skiing accident in 1991. “I had heard that Dr. Swengel was good, so I started going to him. I have never had any regrets.”
Simmerman has taken about 40 rescue dogs to him for exams and shots.
One of the them was treated for heartworm, and it has become a family pet because Simmerman’s husband, Doc, and their grandson have fallen in love with the 51-pound basset hound-golden retriever mix, which they call Chewbacca.
“Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate,” Swengel said. “I had two great mentors in Larry Borst and John Holobek at the Shelby Street Animal Clinic. It’s been a great profession; I have always loved it. I would not have changed anything. I don’t know anybody else who can say that after doing the same thing for 47 years.”