You never know what will walk in that door

One of the great things about emergency medicine is that you never know what kind of patients you’ll get.

Dr Peter Bowie is a people’s person, passionate about the place he lives in and the community around him. He’s also living out his childhood dream, running the Pet Emergency & Specialty Center of Marin, in California. While he never knows what will come through the door next, “if it walks and you can carry it in, he’ll see it. We caught up with Dr Bowie on how ezyVet helps manage his fast-paced emergency practice, helping with referrals from colleagues and getting information to and from other institutions.

When did you know you wanted to be a vet, Peter?

By the time I was in third grade, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. All through school, I took any chance that came my way to learn about veterinary medicine, and boy I did love it! Somewhere along the line I drifted away from it and got into Mohr science. By the time I arrived at college, pure science was my gig. I found I lacked the attention span necessary for the more long-term scientific studies. I also enjoyed taking care of the animals we were working with, so I thought “maybe I could apply the scientific method on animal cases?” That finally turned me back towards veterinary medicine.

What is it like running an emergency and specialty veterinary hospital?

One of the great things about emergency medicine is that you never know what’s going to walk in that door, so you have to be pretty good at everything. Luckily, you get a lot of practice in a very short time when you’re on the emergency shift. Most days we’ll have six horses come in, a couple of dogs, two cats and another four chickens. I just saw a 9.5-year-old one, which is very old for a hen. About half of our businesses is emergency and urgent care, which is an incredibly diverse set of cases. But then again, we have surgeons, oncologists, ophthalmologists and internal medicine specialists in-house. We have all bases covered!

It must be stressful stuff at times – How do you cope with the stress of emergency work?

I really think that to last as a vet, and do your best work, you do have to pay attention to your growth and take care of both yourself and those around you. One of the hardest things in medicine of all types is accepting the idea that we’re just human. Things aren’t perfect all the time and at times we just need to move on if we want to be of help to our animals.

That’s why it’s vital you find a good balance outside of work. For me, that means having a ‘sanctuary’ where I can release stress – a nice home where I can garden, wine-taste and cook. That’s always been very important to me. I also hit the trail with the family, either on foot or on the bikes. The outdoors is the place where I absolutely feel most at home. We’re really lucky in California to have mountains, beaches, lots of woods, the most magnificent redwoods in the world, all right here. All this helps my work too, as I gain a broad enough perspective to bond with people and build trust, which is so important in the emergency room.

In this sense, one my favorite aspects of ezyVet’s software is its portability. I have relatively young children and I used to struggle to see them before bedtime when working a full day’s shift. Now I can have dinner with them and then finish up my records after they go to bed. I can do it right from the comfort of my own home and I love it!


“My mission is to create the best veterinary care plans for people of all budgets and to build a team that just loves working together, supporting each other as we grow. At the same time, we’ll keep building a community comprised of all sorts of the different personalities, which is stronger for them.”

Dr Peter Bowie

DVM, PESCM

Tell us a bit about your role in the local community – You must get to know everyone pretty well

One of the unique things about working in pet emergency, especially here at the Pet Emergency & Specialty Center of Marin, is how tightly we are involved with the local community. It is really at the heart of how we run our business, especially being an emergency building. The relationships with the clients are dependent on our relationships with the veterinary community.

For someone like me that’s not just focused on science, this environment is perfect. I’m a people’s person, passionate about the place I live in and the community around me. Looking after everyone’s pets, I get to know my colleagues and pet owners in the community really well, which is wonderful.

Hence, what we want to do in our hospital is create that extra place where the primary veterinarians can send their animals to get whatever help they need. We’re talking about a lot of different businesses and a lot of different personalities, so building and maintaining these relationships takes work. It’s worth it though. Working together over the years, I’ve come to consider most of those guys my friends.

Does that mean that a lot of your work is referral based?

Yes, our business model is based on referrals. We fill a niche for individual vets and practices in the area. When people come in, they already have a long history and relationship with their primary veterinarian. We piggyback on that relationship, providing the kind of care that their GP is not able to provide. As a small hospital, we are a bit faster paced and have some great specialist technology in-house that normal practices won’t carry.

This sort of model is great because we get to know a lot of people and see a wide range of animals. I like to say: “if it walks and you can carry it into my hospital, I’ll see it.” Just the other day we saw a chameleon, but most of our businesses are cats and dogs.

ezyVet is great for us in this regard because it’s so flexible. One of the things that we learned early on was how much power ezyVet has. You don’t have to adopt all its features if you don’t want to, but if you allow for some of your day to day activities to change a bit, you really get a lot of mileage out of the software.

What are an emergency and specialty hospital’s specific needs from a Practice Management Software?

Practice management software tends to be designed for primary care, which has very different challenges to emergency and specialty practices. The first thing I looked for in a new practice management solution was whether it was designed for larger hospitals; those that get a lot of referrals and need to get information to and from other institutions.

It took me eight years to find the right new software, as I couldn’t find anything that was really utilising modern technology to manage a practice. When I ran into ezyVet, two major things caught my eye. Number one – it integrates with a lot of veterinary care providers, whether for the lab work, radiography, or the various other places that we get information from. Number two – they are always growing and trying to push the envelope with integrations to things like distributors and telemedicine services, so that we can do even more work.

If anything, I would like to see our doctors take even more advantage of ezyVet’s great functionality. A lot of the things available still aren’t being used. I tell doctors: “If you write something down twice, let’s just make a template so you don’t have to write it again”. From the nurse’s standpoint too, the idea that they’re not putting in charges is a big time-saver. I love the integrations and I love the idea that we’re all trying to build a better program together.

So what’s next for you?

My mission it to create the best veterinary care plans for people of all budgets and to build a team that just loves working together, supporting each other as we grow. At the same time, we’ll keep building a community comprised of all sorts of different personalities, which is stronger for them.

To do this, I’ll rely on amazing staff to do a lot of the heavy lifting at our pet emergency and specialty centre. One of my strong points is efficiency, so my part is often that of an air traffic controller, getting patients in and out of the hospital, making sure they’re stable and heading in the right direction. It has certainly worked for us so far.

If we keep doing what we all love in a way that gets the best out of great staff, it will allow us to see more and more patients!

“I really think that to last as a vet, and do your best work, you do have to pay attention to your growth and take care of both yourself and those around you. One of the hardest things in medicine of all types is accepting the idea that we’re just human. Things aren’t perfect all the time and at times we just need to move on if we want to be of help to our animals.” – Dr Peter Bowie, DVM, PESCM