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How One RUSVM Alumnus is Changing the Veterinary Industry, One Dog and Idea at a Time

04/29/11

Dr. James St. Clair

Dr. James St. Clair

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ—April 29, 2011—Sometimes, even if you know exactly what you want to do in life, the twists and turns along the way can lead to unexpected places—which is precisely what happened to Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) alumnus James St. Clair, DVM ‘03.

St. Clair grew up working in his father’s veterinary practice, but it wasn’t until his senior year in college that he knew he wanted to follow the same career path.

“Surprisingly, my dad wasn’t all that encouraging at first,” he said. “It was more out of concern than anything else. My dad is successful, but he worked seven days a week for many years, and I think he wanted his kids to have a different lifestyle. But there wasn’t any other option for me once I decided.”

For many years, St. Clair planned on practicing only small animal medicine; however, during his clinical year at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine he was introduced to canine rehabilitation therapy, and his focus took an abrupt turn.

“I happened to be there just as they were starting the program and became friends with the orthopedic surgeon who was leading the initiative. Getting to see first-hand the difference post-operative therapy could make in patient outcomes had a huge impact on me. I saw it as a real opportunity, and a game-changer in the industry,” he said.

After graduating from Ross, St. Clair initially joined his father’s practice, but within a year he opened his own rehabilitation facility. At first, however, it was a bit too much too soon.

“There was a lot of overhead and not enough clients. But I was determined,” he said. “I initiated conversations with local veterinarians and started visiting their clinics and doing post-op evaluations. For three years I worked full-time at my father’s practice, used my lunch breaks to travel to clinics for evaluations before returning to my dad’s to finish the workday, and then spent my evenings working at my rehab facility. Then I’d get up and do it all over again.”

During this time, St. Clair started collecting post-op instructions that clients had received from their veterinary hospitals. More often than not, the instructions they received were inadequate or nonexistent, he noted.

“It was at that point that the tide started to turn,” he said. “I started creating post-operative instruction manuals for several different types of common surgeries that were conservative, but provided pet owners with the basic information they needed. Eventually, I made the manuals available online and hospitals started buying them, and that’s when things started to take off.”

Today, St. Clair’s canine rehabilitation clinic, TopDog Animal Health and Rehabilitation, not only provides specialized canine rehabilitation services and small animal care, but is also focused on product development. In 2006, he invented the SupportRx Total Body Harness System, a unique front- and hind-end support harness for dogs, and that same year he formed a relationship with a scientist to create a new kind of canine supplement to promote canine joint health, GlycanAid. Over the last year, his home rehab guides were downloaded more than 5,500 times by pet owners, and he recently started a support community on Facebook where they can ask specific questions.  

“You just never know where life is going to take you,” he said. “I’m passionate about the work that I do and about the relationship pet owners have with their animals, and I want to help preserve that. At the same time, I’m passionate about the fact that a lot of dogs are suffering needlessly. Educating pet owners about recovery is important. I’m still working to change the industry, but I think it’s going to take many years. We’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m doing my part every day, and I consider every dog that I am able to help a triumph.”

About Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine
Ross University is a provider of medical and veterinary education, offering doctor of medicine and doctor of veterinary medicine degree programs. Founded in 1982 and located in St. Kitts, West Indies, the School of Veterinary Medicine is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the St. Christopher & Nevis Accreditation Board.  The School of Veterinary Medicine is affiliated with 22 AVMA-accredited US veterinary schools where students complete their clinical year. The Ross University Veterinary Teaching Hospital is the only facility outside the US and Canada accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association.

Ross University’s administrative offices are located in North Brunswick, NJ. For more information about Ross University, visit www.RossU.edu or call 732.509.4600/877.ROSS.EDU.