A new level of caring | AspenTimes.com

A new level of caring

Joel Stonington

Dr. Melissa McPheron takes measurements off an X-ray Tuesday before surgery on a dog at her Basalt office. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

When Melissa McPheron opened her veterinary practice here two months ago, she became the first board-certified veterinary surgeon on the Western Slope. By all accounts, the level of veterinary care will go up in the area. “There have been specialists coming into the valley periodically, and we constantly refer people to vets in Denver, but now we can refer them to her.” said Chad Roeber, a veterinarian at Alpine Animal Hospital. “I already have referred people to her for some of the more advanced surgical procedures and advanced orthopedics.”The goal is to get the best care for the animal that you can,” he said.” It’s a win-win situation for local vets and for her, the animal care in the valley should go up.”McPheron has been coming to the valley on a regular basis to perform surgeries for the past five years and finally decided it was time to move here.”I felt there was a need for my services,” she said.McPheron earned her undergraduate and veterinarian degrees at Kansas State University in Manhattan, as well as a one-year internship and three-year surgical residency at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. In many ways, the difference between the kind of care she provides and the kind of care many vets already provide in the area is comparable to what human doctors do.”We’re general practitioners, and she’s a specialist, so it’s no different from human medicine,” Roeber said.McPheron has the ability and equipment to do surgeries other vets can’t do. Her practice, though, depends on the various practices throughout the valley.”I work in cooperation with the local vets,” she said. “It’s a collaborative effort. Their input is helpful to me in selecting the appropriate avenue to take.

“I try hard to consider the patient as a whole before making a recommendation.”And though her training is in surgery and in Western veterinary medicine, she said: “I’m open and receptive to alternative methods of treatment – holistic treatments, acupuncture – I like integrating some of those therapies into my management.”Scott Dolginow, owner of the critical care hospital in Basalt where McPheron leases space, has been able to provide the ability for 24-hour care. McPheron works together with Dolginow’s hospital in many ways.”My practice works out of this space in Basalt during the day,” she said. “Then his practice comes in and occupies the same space during nights and weekends. We’re sharing equipment and space. We flip-flop which businesses are in here, depending on the time of day.”McPheron now handles trauma, elective orthopedics, ACL tears, and other surgeries that only a few months ago would have required a referral to Denver.

“She could ultimately pull from the entire Western Slope: Telluride, Montrose, Paonia and even out into Utah,” Dolginow said.One example of a surgery McPheron can perform is a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, which is a complicated procedure for operating on an ACL tear.

“This procedure involves cutting the bone and changing the angle of the tibial joint surface,” she said. “We then fix it with a bone plate and screws.”Already, McPheron is seeing between 10 and 20 animals a day.”I do my elective surgeries on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she said. “But I’m available to do emergency and trauma five days a week, Monday through Friday. Scott’s practice is the pet ER, but I’m available for the case that gets hit by a car and needs multiple injuries addressed.”

McPheron has two dogs, Abby and Chino, and a cat, Pearl. All three are rescued animals.”The cat was rescued off a fence caught in a leg hold trap,” she said. “One of the dogs was brought in to be euthanized.”She said she would like see an area nonprofit help treat stray animals or animals whose owners have extenuating circumstances.”To the best of my knowledge I don’t know of any way to fund treatment of animals who might be stray, but I would like to get something started up,” she said.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com

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