Pelham veterinary hospital changing hands

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg and technician Dawn Gray, left, treat Haley, a 14-year-old mini goldendoodle belonging to Marcie Sclove, right, of Amherst, at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg gives a kiss to patient Haley, a 14-year-old mini golden doodle belonging to Marcie Sclove, right, of Amherst, at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. At left is technician Dawn Gray. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, left, gets a hug from longtime client Marcie Sclove after treating her dog. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, below, treats Haley, a 14-year-old mini golden doodle belonging to Marcie Sclove of Amherst at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, left, and technician Dawn Gray treat Haley, a 14-year-old mini golden doodle belonging to Marcie Sclove, right, of Amherst, at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sclove and Dr. Lichtenberg in the reception area of Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, right, chats with long-time client Marcie Sclove of Amherst after treating her 14-year-old mini golden doodle, Haley, at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Molly Jackson joined the Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham in 2015. In June she will be taking over the practice from its founder, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • In 2015, Dr. Molly Jackson, left, joined the Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital, the practice founded in Pelham by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, right, and her husband, Andy, in 1992. In June, the Lichtenbergs will be retiring and Jackson will be taking over. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, right, chats with long-time client Marcie Sclove of Amherst after treating her 14-year-old mini golden doodle, Haley, at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Molly Jackson joined the Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham in 2015. In June she will be taking over the practice from its founder, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg founded the Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham with her husband, Andy, in 1992. In June she will be retiring and Dr. Molly Jackson, who joined her in the practice in 2015, will be taking over. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham will soon be changing hands from its founder, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, to Dr. Molly Jackson, who joined the practice in 2015. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, left, and technician Dawn Gray treat Haley, a 14-year-old mini golden doodle belonging to Marcie Sclove, right, of Amherst at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital in Pelham on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

@BeraDunau
Published: 5/27/2018 4:45:56 PM

PELHAM — Next month marks the end of an era at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital — and the beginning of a new one.

Since 1992, people have been getting their pets cared for at the Lichtenberg hospital under the watchful eye of Dr. Debora Lichtenberg and her husband, Andrew, the practice manager.

At the end of June, people will still be able to take their furred friends to the Pelham practice, but the Lichtenbergs will be gone.

“It’s time to move on,” said Andrew Lichtenberg.

The Lichtenbergs have sold the practice to Dr. Molly Jackson, a veterinarian who started working at Lichtenberg in 2015. Jackson grew up in Whatley and will move into the home located on the same property as the practice, which the Lichtenbergs will be leaving to move to New York City.

“I never thought this would happen,” said Debora Lichtenberg. “I’m thrilled.”

“It’s frightening only in the most exciting way,” said Jackson.

On May 1, the Lichtenbergs sent out around 2,500 letters to customers of the practice announcing the transfer, as well as their coming departure. The letter also invited people to a June 2 celebration at the practice to say goodbye to them and welcome Jackson.

“To say goodbye and hello,” said Debora Lichtenberg.

She said that she’s already received an unexpected amount of well-wishing.

“I didn’t expect this outpouring of people saying the nicest things,” Debora said.

“Stop & Shop is like, free for all,” she continued. “Even though Amherst is a pretty big town it doesn’t feel like that.”

The Lichtenbergs came to the Valley when they both attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst for graduate school, where they received master of fine arts degrees — Andrew in directing and Debora in theater.

“We spent four years here and loved it,” she said.

Debora went on to attend veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her veterinary medical degree, or VMD, the equivalent of a doctor of veterinary medicine, or DVM, at other colleges. However, the couple wanted to explore raising their identical twin boys in western Massachusetts and, 30 years ago, they moved back.

“We came back with the idea of seeing how we liked it,” said Debora.

A business begins

Four years later, the couple founded Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital, with Debora as the veterinarian and Andrew as practice manager. They chose to set the practice up in a converted poultry barn, where it has remained ever since.

When the practice started, it sported a staff of one in addition to the owners. Now, counting the Lichtenbergs, the hospital employs 12 people.

“We grew little by little,” said Debora.

Currently, the practice counts close to 3,000 clients.

Jackson, 34, said that she’d been looking to return to the area. Previously she’d practiced in southern Vermont, in the Pittsburgh area, and on Cape Cod.

Jackson got her veterinary degree from Tufts University, and although she originally desired to go into large animal medicine, she transitioned into small animal medicine, which includes cats and dogs. Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital is a small animal practice.

“I loved it though,” said Jackson, speaking of working with large animals.

“I don’t miss that at all,” shared Debora, who said that she did large animal medicine in vet school and “hated every minute of it.”

Although she and her family didn’t send their pets to Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital growing up, Jackson discovered after she started working there that a number of people that she knew from that period of her life are clients.

“My music teacher from elementary school was a client here, and my librarian,” she said.

Debora, 62, said that when she was in veterinary school, women were a minority in the profession.

“Women were unusual at that time,” said Debora.

Indeed, while Debora said that Penn had accepted a high number of women at the time, she estimated that the number in her class was 25 percent. Those numbers, however, have flipped and then some.

“It’s a female predominant occupation now,” said Debora, who has written about the change.

Now, she estimated that number at Penn would be 85 percent women. Jackson said that her graduating class in Tufts was 87 women and 13 men.

Indeed, Andrew, 64, is currently the only male working at the hospital.

Debora said that she and her husband’s sons, now 34, both loved growing up in the Valley, though it did give them a bit of a culture shock when they left.

“You didn’t tell us the rest of the world was different from Amherst, mom,” said Debora, paraphrasing her sons, who now live in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan respectively.

At their height, the pets that the Lichtenbergs had consisted of 11 cats, three dogs, a parrot, chinchilla, Debora said, rattling off the top of her head.

“There was more, but you get the idea,” said Debora. “It was a riot.”

Now, however, they have only one dog and one cat.

Jackson has a 4-year-old daughter, Avery, and she said that she is excited to raise her in the house and the practice.

“She loves coming here already,” said Jackson.

Debora said that Andrew, whom she described as a “sentimental nut,” is also very happy about this.

“The idea that there’s a little kid in the house, he is thrilled,” she said.

New ownership

Jackson also said that she felt comfortable at the prospect of living near her work.

Neither Jackson nor Debora expressed concern about boundaries with clients when it comes to Jackson living next door to the practice. Nevertheless, Debora said that this was not always the case.

“Back in the day, there were less boundaries,” she said.

The business transfer is being made possible by a loan from the Small Business Administration through Live Oak Bank for the property, as well as another loan for the practice from Wells Fargo Practice Finance. Debora said that while there is certainly a market for established veterinary practices, she is glad that she was able to sell to an employee.

“There’s not a big feel that’s going to change here,” said Debora.

Although she hadn’t brought it up right away, she indicated that she had eyed Jackson as a potential candidate to take over the business from the time of her hiring.

“I was really happy when Molly applied for the job,” said Debora.

“I was happy that they said yes too,” chimed in Jackson.

For her part, Jackson said that she’d never considered being able to have her own practice until coming to work at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital.

“It wasn’t in my radar whatsoever,” she said.

However, after coming to the hospital, Jackson said that such a move made sense in terms of where she wanted to be and the medicine she wanted to practice.

“I love the feel here,” she said.

Jackson said that she doesn’t expect much to change at Lichtenberg Veterinary Hospital.

“I like the way it is,” said Jackson. “I want it to keep the family feel.”

Debora did say that both Jackson and Dr. Beth Pelletier, a veterinarian who started at Lichtenberg a few months after Jackson and will continue on as an associate, will bring in different techniques.

“I bought them an ultrasound because I was never gonna learn to use it,” said Debora.

“It’s exciting and sad,” said Pelletier, of the transition. “I’m hopeful for good things to come.”

She also wished the Lichtenbergs the best.

Emily Zuhusky, who has been working at Lichtenberg since 1996, endorsed the turnover.

“I think it’s a good transition,” said Zuhusky. “We like Dr. Jackson a lot.”

Asked if she’d be adding a large-animal component to the business, Jackson said that she didn’t think so.

“Now I love this,” she said.

However, Jackson did say that she would be interested in possibly doing some large-animal work on the side.

On why they’d decided to relocate to New York City, Debora Lichtenberg said that she has family in New York. Debora said that she has attained her license to practice in New York and plans to continue to practice in either a volunteer or professional capacity.

She also said that she’s considering going to places like Puerto Rico to volunteer at spaying and neutering animals.

“I would love to do something like that,” she said.

As for Andrew, he said that he plans on trying to get better at the piano, maybe writing some music, and doing a lot of reading

“I’d like to relax,” said Andrew, noting that he’s been working since he was a kid.

Debora’s last day working will be on June 26.

Two days after that, the Lichtenberg’s will drive off to New York.

Debora also said that her husband suggested she be working when the moving truck arrives, so she won’t get too emotional.

Andrew said that even though people advised them against working together, it’s been a wonderful experience.

“It was the greatest thing,” he said. “We had a great time.”

He also said that he appreciated being able to pass on something that will continue going after he’s left, which he also said happened in his theater career.

“It’s great to build something that survives you,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy