Veterinary practice through the ages

Veterinary practice through the ages

Three generations of veterinarians, builders and carpenters keep this Syracuse, N.Y., practice thriving.
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Sep 01, 2012

John Stack, DVM, started a veterinary clinic out of his garage in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1910. Today, more than a hundred years later, Stack Veterinary Hospital is in full swing with grandson Dan Stack, DVM, leading the operation. Dan explains that the clinic, still located in Syracuse but housed in a different building, has experienced a few minor changes over the years.

Dan's grandfather, who graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y., was one of the few veterinarians in the area who doctored mules used for towing barges along the Erie Canal. He primarily made farm calls and treated large animals, including the local police and fire department horses, but also performed small animal surgeries out of his home.

"During World War I my grandfather served in the Army treating the fractures and ailments of cavalry horses," Dan says. "He once said, 'Today's veterinarian must be willing to do some good, hard work and do it at all hours of the day.'"

Dan's father, Robert Stack, DVM, lived up to this philosophy. In 1950, after serving three years in World War II and also graduating from Cornell, Robert teamed up with his father to expand the practice and move out of their garage. They both put in $500 and started to build a facility on Velasko Road not far from where they lived, Dan says.

"At the time, during the '50s, it was considered one of the first modern veterinary hospitals in the central New York area," Dan says. "To this day, the floor plan they put together is one of the best."

John Stack practiced until he was well into his 80s. After he retired in the late 1970s, his son Robert—Dan's father—continued the tradition of providing high-quality care while maintaining a close, personal relationship with clients, Dan says. "My father never lost the sight of the dedication and compassion that his father gave to the west side of Syracuse," Dan says.

Dan remembers that no occasion or holiday was off limits for his father while practicing veterinary medicine. He still loves to tell the story of how he and his wife, Rosemary, spent their honeymoon in a cold barn in December treating a cow for milk fever, Dan says. "And I remember one Christmas morning, when I was young, holding the ether over the muzzle of a pregnant Boston terrier while my father performed a C-section."

The puppies survived, as did the Stack Veterinary Hospital. Robert and his brother, William Stack, DVM, worked together as large animal practitioners until their father later helped William open his own clinic, Stack Hospital for Pets, on the outskirts of the city. That way each son had a practice of his own, Dan says.

When the brothers started raising families they both shifted their focus to small animal medicine. Robert, now 88 years old, and Rosemary, who passed away three years ago, raised eight children, so it became too difficult for him to be on call constantly. Rosemary was a self-taught bookkeeper for the practice and worked endless hours to keep the clinic organized, Dan says. "My father could never had done it without her help and fortitude," he says.

Fast-forward to the present day: Now Dan practices small animal medicine and his older brother, Michael Stack, DVM, covers the large animal aspect of Stack Veterinary Hospital and devotes most of his time to the dairy industry in central New York. Following in his grandfather's footsteps, now Michael works out of his garage.

Dan's father says the day his oldest son, Michael, took over the large animal part of the business and his youngest son, Dan, became a partner and eventually sole owner of the hospital will always stand out in his mind. "The fact that they decided to stay here and run the large and small animal practice was a wonderful gift to me," Robert says.

The legacy doesn't stop there. Michael's son, also named Dan, is the lead carpenter on a current addition and renovation at the hospital. The construction manager is a Stack as well: Dan and Michael's brother Kevin, of Northeast Natural Homes, specializes in green building and is adding rain gardens, water collection devices and solar power panels to practice. Kevin's son Josh also works for the construction company and is contributing to the remodel. The addition will almost double the practice size to 6,800 square feet. "Not only is there a rich history that goes with the practice, but we have a family all working together in different fields to help the practice continue on for hopefully another 100 years," Dan says.

Dan has two daughters: Hannah, 16 years old, and Allie, 14 years old—will they be the future of Stack Veterinary Hospital? "They both show an interest in horses," Dan says. "We'll have to wait and see.