Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lawrence veterinarian brings old-time feel to treating animals

June 22, 2014


Veterinarian Herschel Lewis, 78, has been practicing in Lawrence the same way for decades: not taking appointments, no fancy equipment or technology. Here, he examines Kelly Farlow's dog, Skye, for a skin ailment at the clinic at 3101 W. Sixth St. on Friday.

Veterinarian Herschel Lewis, 78, has been practicing in Lawrence the same way for decades: not taking appointments, no fancy equipment or technology. Here, he examines Kelly Farlow's dog, Skye, for a skin ailment at the clinic at 3101 W. Sixth St. on Friday.

Walk into Lawrence's Lewis Veterinary Clinic, and you might you feel like you've just stepped off a time machine, 50 years in the past.

There's not a computer in sight, no beeping from high-tech medical equipment (because there isn't any). The receptionist still uses a typewriter and keeps patients' records on paper. The office has an intercom system that's never been used.

But if you're going to the no-frills clinic at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue, there's a good chance veterinarian Herschel Lewis, 78, and his longtime office manager, Brenda Newell, know you, your family and your pets. Heck, they might have even taken care of your grandparents' animals.

Lewis, the oldest clinical veterinarian still practicing in Lawrence, started all the way back in 1969 at 809 Vermont St., in the former office of the first American woman to graduate from dental school. A few years later, Lewis put up the building at 3101 W. Sixth St., where his practice remains to this day.

Lewis Veterinary Clinic hasn't changed much in that time. It still has the same phone number Lewis inherited from veterinarian T.J. Leasure when he took over his practice. "I don't have a $100,000 digital X-ray, and I'm not going to get one, at my age. If I want an ultrasound done, I'll send them to Dr. Tom," Lewis said, referring to Clinton Parkway Animal Hospital's Tom Liebl, who often gets Lewis' more complicated referrals. Lewis readily admits that if he doesn't know something he will refer a patient to someone who does.

That's another that's changed about veterinary care, he says: specialization. That didn't exist before, so vets would simply do what they could and hope for the best. At that time, people didn't usually consider pets family members, as they now do.

But Lewis isn't anti-progress. The advances in medical treatment and technology since he started have been exponential, extending the lives of countless family pets in the process. "I suppose I'm being forced kicking and screaming into the 20th century, not the 21st century, the 20th century," he said. "I don't have a computer. My wife has one. But I can do most of the things I want to do without a computer."

The clinic is walk-in only (except for veterinary procedures). Asked why he does it this way, Lewis said: "People won't keep half the appointments they make, even for surgery, and they don't even bother to call."

The lack of bells and whistles, as well as products for sale, helps keep visits to the clinic affordable. "I hear that all the time: 'You don't try to sell us stuff we don't really need,'" said Newell, who joined in the early 1970s and, besides breaks for raising kids, has been there ever since. Behind where she sits are metal filing cabinets topped with packages of flea-and-tick medicine and a rack of pet treats with a couple bags left on it. Lewis' laid-back approach must be working, she added, because people "keep coming back, generation after generation."

Lewis grew up in southern Kansas, where he met his wife of 56 years, Donna, with whom he has two children and three grandkids. After serving as a medic in the military, he attended veterinary school at Kansas State.

Why did he choose Lawrence?

"It's far enough away from southern Kansas to be another country, to be honest," he said. Plus, Leasure and local realtor John McGrew were willing to help finance him to get his start.

Lewis rarely advertises, not for financial but ethical reasons. Veterinarians just didn't advertise when he started; he thinks it might have even been ground for them to lose their licenses. His recent ad in Best of Lawrence magazine said, 'Thank you, Lawrence for your vote! From the Douglas County Veterinary Medical Association." "That's all of us," he noted. Lewis Veterinary Clinic is only mentioned across the bottom.

If Lewis reminds you of the old-time country doctor, that's because, in a sense, he is. "My wife and I have said for years he's the James Herriot of Douglas County," said rural Lawrence resident Tom Sloan, referring to the late veterinarian/author who told tales of caring for animals in the British countryside. For instance, Lewis visits the Sloan residence to care for the couple's sheep.

Nadine Dolan, a retired proofreader for the Journal-World, said she started going to Lewis Veterinary Clinic "at least four or five dogs ago." She said she has stuck with Lewis ever since because he treats clients like longtime friends (oftentimes because they are) and has a great sense of humor.

"I hope the world that he outlives me," said Dolan, 81. "I wouldn't want to change vets, that's for sure. He's just a swell guy."

Lewis says people sometimes come into the clinic and say, "Dr. Lewis, I heard you were retiring." But the almost-octogenarian doesn't have plans to hang up his green doctor's coat anytime soon.

"What am I going to do? Sit home. Even my television doesn't work. It does, but the sound doesn't work," he said. "Why have I kept doing this? Basically the long and short of it is, I've always liked it. It's been good to me, all the way around."


Richard Ballard 3 years, 12 months ago

How great is this story!

Dr. Lewis has been my vet for almost 50 years.. He & Brenda nursed my two old Brittany hunting dogs, and a more recent 13 year old Boxer through injuries, and their final days with compassion, and understanding.

As well as the best medical treatment possible to make their lives the best they could possibly be to the end.


Then handled me, and the remains with further compassion when the end finally came for them.

You couldn't find a better vet & office assistant, or a finer man, and friend's then Dr. Lewis and Brenda!

If I could find an MD & medical practice that conducted business the same way?

I am sure I would live an extra few years just like my dogs did too!

Richard Ballard

Robert Rauktis 3 years, 12 months ago

Screw Charmin compassion… this guy should run the NHS in Great Britain. Their economic crisis would be over in a week! One sixth to one third don't make appointments or even bother canceling. That blank time is absorbed by everyone. People would rather dally with a free service, thus the ineffectiveness and cost. It only matters when they can bother walking.

Adam Kasson 3 years, 12 months ago

Thanks Dr Lewis and Brenda. You guys have always been there for me and my wife and all our animals. Being a vet goes way beyond just showing up to work everyday. You always had passion for our animals and had the ability to look them in the eye and tell us the truth about their feelings. With that said meeting me at 300am to take care of an emergency with our animals or whatever the case might be, you were always there for us no matter what the time. That goes to show what type of vet you are and the passion involved with it. Always shared great stories with us also which last a lifetime. Thank you guys so much.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 12 months ago

Have you ever watched the British TV series, " All creatures great and small"? It's a wonderful story, which takes place over many episodes, of being a vet and encountering all kinds of people.

Maybe one of your clients will give you the whole set as a gift for the work that you are doing. You will like it.

Paula Kissinger 3 years, 12 months ago

Doc is simply the best. Some 30 years ago he referred me to K State when my Keeshond was having knee issues. Bottom line : the condition was left to itself and she lived to be a nice old 15. It was for my piece of mind, I believe.

No less than 3 times within the last year I consulted him about apparent cognitive issues with our pit bull. He gave her some meds, but, as expected, there was only deterioration. There's no real treatment for human dementia/Alzheimers thus less for animals. He met us in his office on a Sunday night where we ended her mental torture.

He's just real...tells it like it is. He has no problem referring patients out when he feels it necessary. He's the best all around vet I've ever had and, although I now have a local vet for those specialty issues, he's my first choice for any issue always.

Brenda is very knowledgeable, helpful and precise. She's got a great sense of humor and keeps the office running smoothly. A no nonsense kind of gal, she rectifies situations swiftly and efficiently. I like that. I like them and will continue partnering with them as long as they can stand me, as I am pretty real myself !

Martha Oldham 3 years, 12 months ago

What a nice article about a great guy! Dr. Lewis loves his clients and their owners!

Patricia Goodlett 3 years, 12 months ago

Thank you Dr Lewis and Brenda for everything you do. I prefer your office over any other veterinarians because of the back, home friendly methods you practice.

I have personally seen you both help so many people when we have to make rough decisions regarding our pets (family).

The hugs that you all have given, pats on the back to reassure they are in a good place and no more hurt.

I have seen you use so much love that I have great admiration for you both.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, you have helped my family, generations of extended family.

I love you both for the care and compassionate that we don't see as often these days.

Good to know that it still exists. Every time I need to remember there is a place, I take that drive down memory lane and "Lewis Veterinary Clinic" during right there on the corner since before I was born.

God bless you both.

Sue McDaniel 3 years, 12 months ago

You are both simply the best! We were just in an it is always a pleasure! I love your caring down to earth approach!

Emily Robbins 3 years, 12 months ago

I moved away from Lawrence last year and I sure do miss Dr. Lewis!

Julie Jacob 3 years, 12 months ago

I absolutely adore Doc Lewis and Brenda! They have treated my keeshonden with compassion and care during all kinds of procedures. Doc Lewis takes the time to understand your point of view and explains why he may differ. Thank you for being a great vet!

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