Story by Christina Keaster
Dr. Terry Dw is truly one-of-a-kind. As the only American College of Veterinary Surgeon (ACVS) board-certified, small animal surgical specialist in Arkansas, he achieved his distinct title with hard work. He chose Russellville to establish his clinic, Azzore Veterinary Specialists.
“My mom impacted my love for surgery and medicine. She was a teacher to operating room technicians and a Registered Nurse. She taught me to appreciate anatomy and science early on,” said Dew.
As a boy growing up in the southeast corner of Wisconsin, Dew and his brothers were always dissecting animals from hunting and fishing trips, learning more about animal anatomy. He and his brothers started a construction company after high school, and Dew also trained hunting dogs and managed a shooting reserve in northern Wisconsin.
“A veterinarian would help with the free-ranging wildlife on the reserve and he wasn’t that skilled. And I thought, well I could do a better job than this.”
After hurting his back during a construction job, Dew was given two options from an orthopedic surgeon.
“He told me, ‘You can keep doing construction and be in a wheel chair in about five years or you can start using your brain instead of your back.”
Naively, Dew thought “Well, I’ll just go back to school and be a veterinarian. I never looked at how hard it was and what you had to do.”
“We got to do as much research as we wanted, which was really nice.”
With a Master’s degree in wildlife parasitology and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M) in hand, Dr. Dew sought after a zoo medicine internship, but wasn’t accepted due it being so competitive. However, he received an internship with a specialty practice in Connecticut.
“Throughout completing my D.V.M., I thought I wanted to do zoo medicine, but the internship in Connecticut changed my mind. I found out I could earn a lot more money doing surgical procedures than zoo medicine,” Dr. Dew said laughing.
“Because I’ve always worked with my hands in construction using tools, surgery came easy to me. If you can visualize things in 3-D and use your hands you’re gonna be fairly successful as a surgeon.”
“There was a good case load and we got a very good response to a blind postcard mailing that we did. Russellville is centrally located between Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Little Rock.”
At first, Dr. Dew would go into individual practices to work. When that became busy, he tried working at three to four general practices around the state. Then Dr. Dew worked out an emergency clinic in Memphis, using his staff and working there during the day.
Finally, Dr. Dew opened his own facility in one location—Russellville.
Even though Dr. Dew is board certified as a small-animal surgeon, he performed an out-of-the-ordinary surgery when he assisted the Memphis Zoo with a 5-year- old polar bear named Cranbeary. The 600 pound polar bear had a broken femur in her left rear leg after falling 14 ft. into a dry mote in her exhibit.
“The surgery went very, very well. It was like putting together a puzzle,” Dr. Dew recalled.
Because of Dr. Dew’s skill, Cranbeary is back in her daily exhibit. Just recently, Dr. Dew visited the Memphis Zoo to amputate a tail on a penguin.
“There is no typical day,” Dr. Dew said laughing, “that to me is what makes it interesting. You never know what one day is going to bring.”
A total of 60% of the practice is doing knee-ligament surgery in dogs. Dr. Dew has removed a tumor from an aged Golden Retriever, implanted a total hip in a Seeing Eye dog, removed a ruptured disc from a paralyzed dachshund and reconstructed a fracture on a Christmas puppy that jumped from a child’s arms.
“I’ve known Dr. Dew since 1994. He looks like Grizzly Adams, but he’s a brilliant surgeon. We are fortunate to have him in our area,” said Dr. Lesley Holidy of Arkansas Animal Clinic.
“We’re open with the clients, and we all interact. It’s not overly stressful here like it can be in some hospitals.”
Most of the staff has been working for at least two years at Azzore. Dr. Dew’s staff is great at interacting with the clients when they aren’t visiting the clinic.
“We use email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a blog, and our website to communicate with our clients,” said Dr. Dew. This aspect gives effective communication with clients that live around the state or out-of-state.
“Each week we have a vote for the pet of the week on our blog. People get really into it. We put their case history and treatment under each pet’s photo. During the week of January 18, we had 402 votes for Belle, a female yellow lab who had suffered from laryngeal paralysis,” said Janna Ritchie, bookkeeper at Azzore.
“I give clients back a really important part of their lives. Because families are so spread apart these days, that animal can be the only consistent thing in a person’s life. Seeing the animals do well and seeing the owners happy is what makes it worth while for me.”