Best of Lawrence profile: Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital remains focused on compassionate care

Owner Dr. Sabra Amend (left) and former owner Dr. Kristi Rowland (right) outside of Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital at 1825 Wakarusa Dr.

Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored content produced by the Journal-World’s advertising department. Businesses who received a top three award in the Best of Lawrence competition are eligible to participate in the Best of Lawrence Spotlight Series program, which includes a question-and-answer profile. Look for future profiles in the print and online editions of the Journal-World.

Congratulations on being voted the “Best of Lawrence”! How does it feel to receive this recognition from the community?

We’re incredibly honored by this award! It means so much to us to receive the community’s vote. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

What do you believe sets your business apart?

As veterinarians, we have a unique privilege to become part of people’s families by nurturing the bond they share with their pets. When your pet looks into your eyes, you see it. When they curl up next to you and rest their head on your arm, you feel it. When they stare through the front window as you back out of the driveway and can’t contain their excitement when you arrive home, you know it. They are gifts of undying love and devotion. This is the human-animal bond. When they come through our doors at Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital and we look into their eyes, we see it too.

Our mission is to honor and preserve these gifts for as long as we can. Every one of our team members is guided by their own personal love for people and animals. We’ve all taken different journeys to get to where we are now, together working as a team to provide compassionate and trustworthy veterinary care to our community. It is our passion project. We take pride in the relationships we form with the families that come through our doors and believe that this personal touch is what sets us apart.

Sabra Amend, DVM

Can you provide a brief overview of your business’s history, including its founding, initial goals and how it has evolved over the years?

We are a locally owned business and always have been. We are going into our eleventh year of being female-owned. All the people involved in the evolution of Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital take pride and feel a sense of ownership in how they contributed to making it what it is today.

In 2002 Mark Marks, DVM of Marks Veterinary Hospital and Kristi Rowland, DVM of Free State Veterinary Hospital merged to make Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital. At that time, there were only two veterinarians and 8 support staff. In 2006, I (Sabra) joined the team as one of the 8 support staff, first in a kennel attendant role and then eventually into a technician assistant role. My goal was to one day become a veterinarian. Kristi and Mark served as my mentors from day one, taking me under their care, teaching me skills, and preparing me for the process of applying to veterinary school.

In 2012 my dream came true as I entered the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. In January of 2013, Mark retired and Kristi took sole ownership of the practice. It continued to grow and flourish under her care. Demand for veterinary care continued to grow in our area as well. In the ten years under Kristi’s sole ownership, the staff grew to 24 support staff and four doctors, one being Norma Gottstein, DVM who will be celebrating her 11th year with the company this year.

I was offered a position as associate veterinarian in 2018. I had since graduated from veterinary school and was working in a different practice in the Kansas City area but left it to return to Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital, which had felt like home since 2006. Lawrence was the place I wanted to plant my roots.

Megan Gleeson, DVM is the most recent doctor to come onboard. Megan joined the team as an associate vet in January of 2022. She also ‘came back home’ to Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital after earning her DVM at Colorado State University. Megan too worked as a prior member of the support staff, mentored by Kristi and Mark as she was studying for her undergraduate at the University of Kansas.

In 2022, Kristi was ready to pass the baton of ownership and I was ready to receive it. Kristi had been in my life for 16 years at that point and we both felt confident that this was the right next step for the future of Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital.

We began discussing what our goals were for the practice and realized that our values already aligned effortlessly. It was a perfect match. We both wanted to continue providing exemplary care to our patients while maintaining the bonds made with the people who come through our doors. It was of utmost importance to both of us that the practice stay a legacy practice, built on the foundation that Kristi and Mark built. One that the community recognized, knew, and trusted. One where the faces of the people inside feel like friends and our patients greet us with enthusiasm as we swoop them up for hugs and kisses. One where all the staff inside know the pets and their human family members by name.

I took sole ownership in January of 2023 of Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital and am still honored to have Kristi beside me. This is one of the most unique features of our partnership. I have yet to meet another person in my situation who has been able to do what we’ve done: continue to work together after a transfer of ownership. It really does set us apart. It makes us unique. It’s something we’re both really proud of. And it all comes back to our aligned goals and values for the practice moving forward. It makes it effortless to continue to work together because we want the same things. I am filled with gratitude to have that common ground. When we revealed the news of the sale of the practice there was a lot of concern in the community that Kristi was retiring and we were both thrilled to reveal that she is still here in very much a big way, caring for her patients and their families with an unmatched level of compassion and dedication.

I am a “dream big” kind of person. This has always been my guiding light. I have big hopes and dreams for the practice that I now get to nurture and care for. I have already begun making adjustments that will promote growth so we can help more people and their pets and I have big plans for the future. To be the owner of Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital is my favorite of life’s gifts so far. I’m so proud to carry our legacy into the future and continue to help our community. What an honor it is.

Kristi Rowland, DVM

How has your business evolved or grown since you first started? What key milestones have you achieved along the way?

We are building a reputation in Lawrence of trustworthy and compassionate veterinary care. We are proud to provide a positive and supportive environment for our staff to work in. We take pride in the collaboration between our four doctors which allows us to provide a variety of special services including oncology, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental care, and at home end of life care. In the last two years, we have grown our connections with surrounding traveling specialists to expand our services into orthopedic surgery and high level internal medicine.

Community support is crucial. How do you engage with the local community, and how has this engagement impacted your success?

Supporting the Lawrence Humane Society has always been a priority for us. We attend events and give back as many ways as we can. We provide free exams to new families that have adopted pets from our local humane society as a way to strengthen our local ties and promote adopting locally. We have also done community outreach, supporting other local organizations. This year we are supporting Junior Achievement via the Bowl-A-Thon. We also participated in the fundraiser for the building of the new Hilltop Daycare facility earlier this summer.