INTERVIEW WITH DR. MATTHEW McCARTHY Juniper Valley Animal Hospital

The new state-of-the-art Juniper Valley Animal Hospital is slated to open next month to replace the one adjacent to it on 69th Place in Middle Village. It will be 8000 square feet and consist of two floors, five examination rooms, new equipment, separate waiting areas for dogs and cats, and other features too numerous to mention in this article. It was the intention and the vision of its founder, Dr. Matthew McCarthy to build the best veterinary hospital in Queens, and he has successfully achieved that goal with the same passion, determination, and discipline he has displayed so often when treating his patients, the many dogs and cats of our community. But it is Dr. McCarthy's veterinary skill and management acumen that has made him such a veterinary icon in our community. He treats his patients with incredible compassion and resourcefulness. His clients admire his integrity and unique style, and have the upmost trust in him with their pets, as if he were a family member. Among the many accolades, here's one from Dr. Philip Franco, the principal at Saint Margaret's School: “He saved my dog, Lucy's life. He really did. She was very sick with a temperature of 104 with pneumonia and within 24 hours he had her right back on track. He's the best!” Dr. Matthew McCarthy was born and raised in Washington Heights. He went to grammar school at Saint Elizabeth's Catholic School in Manhattan, high school at Fordham Prep., then earned a B.S. in Engineering from Fordham University and latera B.S. at Columbia University for Engineering. A few years later he studied to be a veterinarian. He currently lives in Forest Hills with his wife, two children, five cats, and one dog (his other dog, Clarence, a Weimaraner, recently passed away). The silhouettes of Clarence and his cat, Hedwig are in the logo of the JVAH.

This interview was conducted in the soon-to-be-completed employees lounge on the second floor of the new Juniper Valley Animal Hospital.

Why did you decide to open a new animal hospital and why next door?
Since we opened here we have done really well. It’s been very busy. Right now we have about 25 employees with three other full time doctors, and with the increase in the number of patients, we decided we needed more space. But where were we going to go to do that? We didn’t want to leave the neighborhood, so we looked at the space next door and it seemed to fit our needs, so we decided to move there. It was the right time, and we thought in response to our clients’ appreciation of what we do we should move there.

How long has the Juniper Valley Animal Hospital been in Middle Village?
15 years. We opened in 1999

How long have you been a veterinarian?
I’ve been a veterinarian since 1995.

What do you think it takes to be a good veterinarian?
I think it’s compassion. You have to really love animals and love what you’re doing to be a good vet.

What do you think is the veterinarian’s role in the community?
Our role is to approach the members of the community like family members. We try to give the same type of care to our client’s pets as we would the pets of our families. Our role is to provide that type of care and to do it the best we can. And to do it honestly and with the integrity that we don’t see in some of the other places. That’s the reason why we’re so successful. The people in the community pick-up on how much we care about their pets.

Why did you become a veterinarian?
My parents, who were both Irish, would send us to Ireland every summer, where we spend half the time in Dublin with my Aunt, and the other half in Kerry on a farm, which was in the southern part of Ireland. Every year we would spend half the summer in Ireland from the ages of five to, I would say, fifteen. So I was into that their farm culture. Loved it. Would go out and do things like work in the fields, feed the cows, and visit the surrounding farms with my Uncle. It was a really cool experience working on the farm with the animals.
And then when I got a little older I started reading these books by James Herriot, called All Creatures Great and Small, and it really struck a chord in me because it wasn’t just about the animals but also about these other characters interacting with the animals. And after that I wanted to be a vet.
So, going into high school, that was my goal: to be a vet. And I was on track do that, but then I went to Fordham and I was going to transfer to Cornell for Life Sciences and then I met a girl, who would become my wife (the best thing that ever happened to me), and I thought I don’t want to go to Ithaca right now, I want to stay at Fordham. So, I did and decided to be a chemical engineer because my cousin was one and he made good money, so I sort of fell into that and did it for a few years. But I grew tired of chemical engineering and decided to go back to school to become a vet, which is what I always wanted to do and was meant to be.

What part of your job do you enjoy most?
I really love it when a patient comes in and at first we don’t know what’s wrong, and then we figure it out, and then they get better and they go home. That’s the part I really love. Helping them. The other part is the hard part. We’ve been treating dogs and cats here for 15 years, so fifteen years ago I saw our patients as puppies or kittens 2 or three months old, and now I’m seeing them at the other end of their life cycle, as senior citizens. I also enjoy dealing with our clients. We have really good clients that come here with their pets. We really love helping them.

How many hours a week do you work?
Sixty to eighty hours a week.

What do you differently at the Juniper Park Animal Hospital from other veterinary clinics that makes it so successful, popular and special?
I think it is because of the way originally set it up. The standard of veterinary care at the places I worked before I started the JVAH was that every 15 minutes the doctor had an appointment set-up, and in most cases the hospitals double booked appointments because they didn’t want to lose revenue. So, if someone didn’t show-up at his 9:45 appointment, and Mr. Jones is already there with his dog, then the doctor would see him. And if they both showed up at 9:45, well now everybody is going to be delayed. That sort of thing didn’t bode well with the clients or with me. It left a bad taste in my mouth. And it’s also not good for patient care. So we set-up the hospital not to double book and do half hour appointments, because in that half hour we could examine your pet, we could also get to talk to the clients and get to bond, and learn a lot about how the client is dealing their pet. And it is a successful formula because it works. It builds relationships and trust.
Another thing we try not to do is focus selling products, which is hard to do because we want to give products to people to help their pet, but we don’t want to push products. We’ll carry prescription foods that pets need, but if you want other stuff go to places that sell them like K-9 Caterers, and places like that to get what you need.

What adjective would you use to describe your staff at the hospital?

What changes in veterinary medicine would you like to see in the future?
I would like to see insurance plans become more accessible and affordable, so that pet owners could take advantage of these insurance plans. Especially when their pets are puppies and kittens and do not have a pre-existing condition.

What is the hardest part of your job?
Euthanizing a pet, especially if it’s a patient we have been taking care of since they were puppies or kittens and have watched them grow to be senior citizens.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about veterinarians?
That vets are only in it for the money. Some are, but the great majority are not.

What is your favorite movie featuring an animal?
A comedy called Best in Show. The reason I like it is because the portrayals of the dog owners and the personalities of the different breeds at the dog show are so accurate it’s eerie and funny. It’s a great film.

What is the most exotic pet you have treated or seen?
We see only dogs and cats. It’s not in our skill set to treat exotics, so we refer them out.

What would we be surprised to learn about Dr. McCarthy?
My daughter, who is also into music was surprised to learn that back in the early eighties I played guitar in a punk rock band that played CBGBs and other clubs. CBGBs was an iconic place back then but unfortunately it’s now gone. We were crazy kids back then.

Thank you, Dr. McCarthy, and good luck with the new hospital!