After 43 years, a loving farewell from Dr Don Mullen of GVH
By Pam Johnson / Zip06.com • 09/22/2021 8:30 AM EST
The practice that brought Dr Don Mullen to Guilford is the same one he leaves in good hands when he retires. ). As he bids farewell to GVH, Don plans to remain a member of the Guilford community he calls home.
“I grew up in Bloomfield, and what’s interesting is that I may never have been to Guilford before I came to interview in 1979. I had been to Madison, because of Hammonasset,” explains Don, who moved to the shore shortly thereafter. he was hired by GVH in 1979.
This can be hard to imagine for many who have come to know Don over the years. He loves this coastal area and can often be seen enjoying Guilford Green, visiting the free Guilford Public Library or strolling along the coast in Hammonasset while bird watching, with the Sibley Guide to Birds at at hand.
“I love this city. I love the waterfront area. People travel thousands of miles to come and spend time here in Guilford, and we can live here, ”says Don.
In fact, there are a few interesting bends along the route that took Don to his job in Guilford. As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, he studied reproductive physiology for two years, but found his calling when he stumbled upon the school of veterinary medicine and its students.
“I was very impressed,” says Don. “The students knew what was going on in the world. I mean, they knew the price of milk – half of them were from a dairy farm. They were working collectively together, and that impressed me a lot. So I applied. “
Unlike many who aspire to be a veterinarian, Don did not have pets as a child, he notes.
“So being a veterinarian was not a career choice I had wanted from the age of 8,” he says. “But the miracle is that the veterinary school accepted me. And that’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Don graduated as a veterinarian from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1979. He was hired the same year as an associate with GVH and has Dr. Ralph Schoemann as a mentor. Don became a partner at Saw Mill Road in 1982.
“We became a partnership, and we have remained a partnership, even until now,” says Don of GVH, who grew from 5 to 40 employees during his tenure.
In 2018, Don left his Associate position as a step towards retirement, while continuing to practice on a reduced schedule. Today, GVH is led by three partners, Dr Anthony DellaMonica, Dr Anita Soucy and Dr Morna Pixton. Over the years, Don has hired them all.
“I really feel like he’s in good hands,” Don says of his departure from GVH. “These partners are going to continue to function in a way that I feel good about. I know I can walk Town Green without worrying about people saying, “Oh, this is so different”. It’s no different, it’s better. I’m really comfortable with the idea that the management and all the vets are so good.
In addition to the partners, GVH has five additional veterinarians who work with its staff. Don organized the GVH professional family to include people who would like to “be part of the fabric of the city, of the community,” he says.
“This is what people have allowed me to do,” he says of the community he cherishes. “I had no idea when I first moved here that we would have this special city library and this special Town Green.”
A member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) since 1979, Don has found his place in canine and feline surgery and healthcare at GVH.
“I love what I do. I love the connection we have,” he says. “I love medicine with patients. But a big part of the reason I was able to do this for 43 years is the link with families Children who were small when I first met them, I now see them with their children, so there are several generations of families.
After initially moving to Guilford, the Mullen family quickly grew to include three sons and outgrown their home in the early 1980s. They built a house just above the city limit in North Madison (Don notes it was closer to downtown Guilford than the family’s former home in Guilford). Today, Don and his wife of five years, Christine, are residents of Guilford.
“What an amazing city we live in,” Don says of Guilford.
He also saw the city change a bit over time, as well as the customers who came to GVH.
“In 1979, the population of Guilford was smaller,” says Don. “We were a little more rural and a very large percentage of the guests came here for the summer in their cabins. Thus, a number of clients had addresses in New York.
The standard of care has also changed over the past 43 years, as Don has witnessed. Things that weren’t there when he started practicing, like ultrasound technology, have now become the norm.
“In my practice now, we have color Doppler ultrasound. It sits on a cart smaller than my desk. It’s part of the technological revolution, ”says Don, adding that now, if an animal needs an MRI or CT scan,“ there are at least three scanners within a half-hour drive of. my cabinet. This technology did not exist when I started.
Don’s has also seen the discipline move from a field dominated by men to one that welcomes and values the increase in the number of women practicing veterinary medicine.
“Thank goodness the profession understood that. It took decades of practice for this to happen, ”says Don.
Currently, 6 of the 8 GVH veterinarians are women.
Specialists were also few in number when Don started GVH.
“Finding a specialist was an exception in private practice. So we were not just the primary care providers, we were also the orthopedic surgeons, we were the cardiologists. If you needed help outside of us you had to go to a university [or] the big New York firm that had specialists, ”says Don. “This whole system has evolved, as in human medicine. The number of specialists has increased. And it’s wonderful for our patients.
It also means that the cost of care has increased, which is why Don recommends taking out insurance for your pet when they are very young, as pre-existing conditions are not covered.
“I think a big part of my job now is educating and following my patients through the stages of their lives,” says Don.
Sadly, one of the stages in life brings clients to GVH to provide compassionate euthanasia for their pets. It’s not an easy part of the job, but “a necessary part of the job, which requires empathy and consideration for my patient,” says Don.
“Pets have changed,” he adds. “In the old days, there were dogs that were outdoor dogs; there were cats that lived in the barn. They weren’t beloved family members on the inside. It would be the exception to find an outdoor dog now, or a cat that doesn’t rule the house.
When Don started at GVH, he met local practitioners whose careers stretched back to the 1930s and 1940s, when vets were often called upon to make farm visits to help large animals.
“These guys went to the farms and sometimes they couldn’t get their cars up there, so they went on horseback and wagon. They were big animal vets. They cared for the dog, but they really cared for the farm animals, ”says Don. “As farms disappeared, they then made the transition to small animals, or now what we would call pets. “
Since graduating from college, Don’s family has always included pets, with at least one Labrador retriever among them.
“My first pet was a female yellow Labrador retriever when I was in college. And one way or another, it marked me. So I had a lot of Labradors, not just consecutively but overlapping, sometimes more than one. And I also have a special place in my heart for cats and for feline medicine, ”says Don, who currently has two cats in the family.
However, as Don shared in a note to the family of GVH clients, working with pets is physically demanding, especially for many years.
“Four decades of lifting animals on the examination table and kneeling to examine large dogs culminated in my recent spine surgery and bilateral knee replacement,” he wrote. “Both surgeries were successful, but I’ll be 70 in December and it’s time to put in my stethoscope.”
Don knows he’s going to miss his job. In particular, “… I like surgery. I think I will miss the operating room, ”he said. “But even though I will miss the customers, I think I am physically ready to retire.”
He plans to spend more time with his grandchildren, currently 9, 7 and 1, with his fourth grandchild due in early December.
“I hope to be part of the childcare team. So I’m going to go from Don the vet to Grandpa the babysitter, ”he laughs. “I look forward to it.”
He is also looking forward to spending more time with Christine and enjoying their life together in Guilford, where he is sure he will meet many of the friends and families he has come to know over the years.
“I’ll always be a part of town,” Don says. “I just won’t have the stethoscope on my shoulder. “