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Dr. Hemstreet's Retirement Letter

Dr. Hemstreet, who has relished his years spent serving his many clients and working with our team at LakeCross Veterinary Hospital, is retiring on May 25. In his retirement letter, he recalls some fond memories and bids the Huntersville and Mecklenburg County communities goodbye.

Dear LakeCross Family,

It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement from veterinary practice. My last day will be May 25th. This practice started modestly as a house call practice in 1996. It consisted of a used Ford Escort station wagon (I parked in the street so as not to leave an oil stain on the driveway) and a fishing tackle box filled with syringes, vials for blood samples and basic medications.

The exam table was a Black+Decker ™ Workmate bench. The fact that it grew to the practice it is today is amazing to me. I cannot adequately express how blessed I have been to have taken this journey with Donna - my best friend, veterinary partner (we met in anatomy lab in vet school), and wife. We raised a family in this place.

I will always treasure the experiences I have shared with clients and their four-legged family members over the years. In his last speech on ESPN before he died, the great coach Jim Valvano challenged everyone to endeavor to make each and every day a "full day".

He said a full day is one where you laugh, you think, and you experience something that moves you to tears. He went on to say if you have those three things, you are blessed with a "full day". Every day we experience joy in our interaction with our patients and their "parents". We laugh a lot. To arrive at a diagnosis and a treatment plan requires us to think.

Our patients cannot tell us what is wrong, where they hurt and how they feel. Solving problems is puzzle work and requires a group effort. Euthanasia appointments are color-coded in black on the schedule. It is unusual to have a day where there isn’t one. Many days there are more. Many of these pets are ones we have cared for over their entire life. We know them well and their families too. To have your trust when helping a pet family member experience a safe passage to that Great Mystery is a privilege. The shared tears are real. As a veterinarian, I have been blessed with more "full days" than I deserve. I will miss that so much.

I will also miss the interaction with young people in the community. Our Veterinary Explorers program through Scouts won national recognition and was profiled in Boys Life, the Scouting magazine. We were active for 25 years until COVID shut us down.

These high school kids would follow us for a year. We asked for 15, they signed us up for 30, and on the first night 50 would show up. None were turned away. We have launched many technicians and doctors over the years. Sharing our joy of practice with these kids as well as Davidson College pre-vet students, students in vet school doing externships, and summer "shadowing" has been a pleasure. I will miss that so much.

Finally, I will miss this staff so much. I have been blessed to share this journey with some amazing women. (There have been a few guys, not many.) We have had some really good doctors over the years and our open floor plan allows us to sit next to each other.

Challenging cases are always shared. We have taken on a lot of "green" assistants and techs. The current staff is no exception. To see them develop both knowledge and skill is so rewarding.

I am blessed to have them and consider them my sisters and daughters. I will leave a terrific front office and medical staff. They too experience "full days" and some are fuller than others. I do worry for them. The suicide rate in veterinary medicine is second only to police in the professions. I ask you all for patience. Please be kind. Most of you are and I am grateful for that.

I still have that tackle box. It has fishing lures in it now. I have the Workmate Bench as well. Projects are waiting. It is time to hang up the stethoscope and lay down the scalpel. Thank you for your generous support and friendship over the years. I will miss you all.

Tom Hemstreet

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