WEST LIBERTY, Ky. (KT) - It was in 1963 that the late Dr. William “Bill” Holbrook opened a small veterinary practice at his home on Glenn Avenue in West Liberty. The practice didn’t have an official name but was commonly known around the community as simply “Doc Holbrook’s.”
Now some 56 years later, probably not even Doc himself could have envisioned how things would grow. The business now has a name—the West Liberty Veterinary Clinic—and employs five full-time vets, 12 support staff and eight part-time workers.
On a typical day, the clinic will care for 125 to 150 animals. Approximately 75 percent of those patients are small animals (dogs, cats, etc.) while the other 25 percent are large animals, primarily with farm visits—such as a recent trip to work 100 head of cattle or care for an ailing horse.
Dr. David Fugate is a proud graduate of Morehead State University and the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine. He’s spent the last 21 years as a full-time veterinarian at the clinic and says MSU’s impact on his profession is immeasurable.
“When I went to Auburn, the dean of students told me that Morehead State had the best pre-veterinary program in the country. He said the best students that went to Auburn University came from Morehead State.
Fugate’s colleague, Dr. Ralph Adams, also made his way from Morehead State to Auburn and has been practicing for 16 years. He maintains close ties with his alma mater, specifically Dr. Phil Prater, a professor of veterinary technology.
“Dr. Prater loves this place—he talks about it all the time,” Adams said. “Even students who come up here tell us how much Dr. Prater talks about us. We love that relationship to be able to pull from that group of people and try to help our profession.”
Chase Turner, a West Liberty native and recent MSU graduate, just completed his first year of vet school and has worked part-time at the clinic for four years. He says the hands-on education he received at Morehead State sets him apart from many of his fellow students at Auburn.
“I had labs (at MSU) where I did things at a vet school level and it goes directly hand-in-hand with what I’m doing at Auburn. I’m miles ahead of some of the kids in my class as far as large animal experience.”
Both Fugate and Adams are hopeful Turner will return to his hometown to join the staff following graduation at Auburn. In all, 23 students who have interned or worked at the West Liberty Veterinary Clinic have gone on to full-time practice.
The business continues to expand and has opened satellite clinics in nearby Salyersville and Jackson. The clinic actively serves 23 eastern Kentucky counties, plus Ohio and West Virginia.
“Morehead State gave me the opportunity to do exactly what I believe the Lord meant me to do,” Fugate said. “It helped build this place. It’s indirectly responsible for what you see around here. And it all stems from a legacy that Dr. Holbrook started in 1963—he was Morehead’s first pre-veterinary student to be accepted into vet school.
“I’m an Appalachian kid. I’m a Morehead State kid. It’s been important to us.”