Prioritizing Patient Care Availability. Excellence. Integrity.
As a veterinary neurologist-to-be in 2009, I knew I could fulfill my lifelong dream of helping pets anywhere in the US with such a highly sought-after specialty. But I was less concerned with geography than how the hospital would function. I wanted somewhere I could be the first neurologist starting a new service, be available to patients whenever needed, and use high-field MRI. I wanted to work somewhere that prioritized patient care over the numbers.
I explored opportunities from California to New Jersey. At the time, there was only one neurologist in South Florida. Since I’m Florida-raised, and my wife, Myri-Ann, is from Puerto Rico, Miami made sense for us. So I interviewed at the largest multispecialty hospitals in the area. While each offered a great opportunity, none felt quite right. They either wanted to use a less expensive (lower quality) MRI or didn’t encourage flexible availability to patients.
During my residency at North Florida Neurology, a privately owned practice in Orange Park, I had observed how a single-specialty hospital operated, and I began to think, “Maybe I could start a neurology practice."
One handshake with Dr. Smith and SEVN was born.
First, I needed an MRI. I called high-field MRI centers until one finally agreed to let me scan patients before they opened at 6am or after they closed at 10pm. Next, I needed a place to see appointments, perform surgeries, and hospitalize patients. I visited emergency hospitals and pitched that I would use their space when they were closed, bring my own supplies, do MRIs off site, and pay a percentage of their rent and utilities.
Then I walked into Miami Pet Emergency. It was clean and quiet. Dr. George Smith entered the waiting area. Slicked-back hair, thick-rimmed glasses, beaming smile. White coat, freshly pressed red scrubs, stethoscope. Behind him were his three dogs: Scuzz, a scruffy Chow mix somewhere between 18-25 years old; Wexy, a Rotty mix that Dr. Smith adopted when the owner wanted to euthanize due to a broken leg (which he fixed); and Ted, a rambunctious one-year-old Poodle that could easily jump six feet. Pretty much on a handshake, Dr. Smith agreed to my proposal, and Southeast Veterinary Neurology (SEVN) was born.
Our first patient was an emergency, three days before opening - Sebastian, a Chihuahua pup with a head injury. Our first referral was Chabela, a 14-year-old Pomeranian with seizures. Our first MRI was Bella, a one-year-old Chi/Yorkie mix who UF couldn’t see for another two weeks; she wouldn’t have made it. Our first surgery was “Q,” a 20-pound mix with a slipped disc who would have never walked again otherwise. It was clear; South Florida needed us!
The SEVN Approach What would William want?
When I wasn’t caring for pets, I was visiting vets days, nights, and weekends. Within six months, I had set foot in every animal hospital from Broward to the Keys. I wanted every vet to know and trust me. I’d ask what they wanted in a neurology service and talk about SEVN’s promise to pets, pet parents, and vets: we would be there when they needed us, use only the highest quality equipment and techniques, and treat each pet as our own.
After hours, phones would forward to my cell. If a vet had a question, I would answer it. If a pet needed to be seen, I would head over. Once, Myri-Ann and I left a holiday party to see a pet in need. She was in a gown. I was in a suit. The clients were confused at the sight, but amazed at the care. I performed emergency surgeries on the days each of my children were born, with Myri-Ann’s blessing and unwavering support. Our approach was simple: “What would William want?” William was my first pet, a Pug I adopted in vet school. He was my very best friend. When a tough decision was to be made, we’d ask, “What would William want?”
SEVN grew. And we'll grow wherever pets need us.
SEVN grew. It wasn’t something we planned. While we won awards for being amongst the fastest growing companies, it was never about getting bigger. It was always about helping more pets. In 2015, we opened our Miami office, the first veterinary hospital south of UF to have high-field MRI in house.
Since then, we have grown into teams of neurologists across multiple locations and become the largest privately owned neurology practice in North America. We’ve helped thousands of families and saved thousands of lives. But we’re just getting started. Families with pets everywhere are threatened by seizures, paralysis, vertigo, and pain. SEVN exists to keep these families together by giving second chances to pets with neurological disease and hope to the people who love them. We will continue to grow wherever pets need us.