Dallas — Far from television characterizations as a city filled with cowboy hats, bolero ties and society debutantes, the reality
is that the Dallas area is economically strong, with a thriving job market and stable housing.
Lone-star surge: Practices are busy, but still adjusting to the Metroplex boom. "We know there is more demand, and if we expanded
further, we could keep ourselves busy," says Joanne Franks, crediting living costs as a factor in growth.
Ranked second in numerical growth according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metroplex
is home to a veterinary-profession environment that provides plenty of jobs — with specialists particularly in short supply
— and elevated client-care expectations.
Two once-separate downtown areas have merged gradually to become the Metroplex, a 12-county, 634-square-mile sector that maintains
a big-city urban personality while encompassing growing suburbs that add a rural appeal.
The region attracted 842,000 new residents from April 2000 to July 2006, bringing its total population to just more than 6
million, second only to Metro Atlanta, which gained 890,000 new residents in that period.
Dallas Darwinism: "Most clinics are short on staff and on the lookout for good help. But some are stronger and more stable
than others," says Rosemary Lindsey, a DVM for almost 30 years.
Along with the population boom, veterinary medicine throughout the Metroplex — which holds about one-fourth of the Texas population
of almost 24 million residents — has changed in ways that complement and challenge the profession.
Practitioners across the Metroplex concur: The most common impact to the profession is greater client-care expectations.
"Clients are looking for a more sophisticated brand of medicine than before, with the advent of Animal Planet, Emergency Vets,
the Internet and those sorts of tools. They understand the sophistication of veterinary medicine and are not so surprised
by the kind of care we can offer," says Rosemary Lindsey, a small-animal DVM in Richland Hills, Texas, ABVP diplomate and
Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) board member.
Changing family demographics also drive client expectations, she says. "There are smaller families with fewer children and
many are looking at pets as their children. They want the same kind of care they can get for their kids for their pets."
More clients are seeking the care of referral practices and specialists and seem to be following through on critical care
recommendations, says John Vandermeer, DVM with Highland Park Animal Hospital in Dallas and president of the Dallas County
Veterinary Medical Association.
"Our clients are more knowledgeable. Owners talk with each other, and there is an availability of knowledge through the Internet.
People are more aware of what we as veterinarians are able to do and accomplish and people want these services," he says.
Demand continues to push the service quality and financial success of the profession, says Jed Ford, North Richland Hills
DVM and TVMA board member. "With increased demand, it will fall upon us to get over our unwillingness to charge for what we
are worth and charge appropriately for more excellent veterinary medicine. I think the public will be willing to pay since
their expectations are greater."