Photo courtesy of Western Veterinary Services

Keeping It In The Family, Western Veterinary Services Providing Care In Kadoka And Philip

In the past four decades, Drs. Bill and Norma Headlee have provided routine and emergency veterinary care for their clients' animals of varying shapes, sizes and weights. The Headlees have cared for multiple generations of clients' companion animals and livestock. The services at Headlee Enterprises range from preventative care, such as vaccinating a five-pound teacup Poodle to treating an injury on a prized barrel racing horse or diagnosing a bull from a strong, proven bloodline with a reproductive tract injury. 
The Headlees both grew up on ranches in Jackson County and wanted to raise their children with the same principles they learned while growing up—work hard, love the land and care for all of the animals on the ranch because they depend upon you to provide for them and, in turn, you depend upon them to provide for you. After graduating from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1978, the pair returned to Kadoka and opened their veterinary clinic at its present location on Main Street. They expanded the clinical practice to meet the surgical needs of both small and large animals by installing X-ray equipment, a laboratory and an operating room complete with space for postoperative recovery and observation. In order to better serve the area, they opened a satellite office in neighboring Philip. 
Since opening the clinic in 1978, care and treatment have greatly evolved, preventing many serious health conditions in companion animals and livestock. Newer equipment allows staff to contain larger animals in chutes to allow safer access and better treatment. Genetic studies helped breeders selectively pair livestock to produce healthier animals less susceptible to genetic diseases. The preventative aspects and treatment options are not the only changes in veterinary clinics. Manual record keeping consumed a great deal of time and space for paper records. The advent of the desktop computer and customized software applications allowed clinics to better manage patient health records and client accounts. As the information age evolved, customized websites offer clients a variety of options such as scheduling an appointment, reviewing medical records or paying on their account. Some clinics utilize social media accounts to provide information through posts such as recalls in the pet food industry or the introduction of a new service. After 44 years, the Headlees continue to provide an invaluable service to our community but the general retirement age of 65 seems to have passed them a few years ago as they continue to work season after season. 
During those same four decades, the Headlees reared five children on a small-scale, working ranch in addition to the day-to-day operations of the veterinary clinic. Three of their children obtained medical degrees and one literally followed in her parents' footsteps in terms of education and career choice. Corale Headlee graduated from Kadoka High School and obtained her bachelor's degree in Animal Sciences from South Dakota State University, Brookings. She completed her education in Ames at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, earning her doctorate degree in veterinary medicine. Her parents helped her and her husband, Dan Dorn, open Dells Veterinary Service (DVS) in the small, closely knit town of Dell Rapids in eastern South Dakota in 2006. In recent years, Dr. Dorn and her family realized the physical demands endured by her gracefully aging parents. Both doctors continue to provide medical care for the communities' companion animals and livestock in addition to time-consuming administrative duties. The Dorn family purchased Headlee Enterprises from her parents with the goal of allowing them to focus solely on animal care and handing the reins of the administrative, accounting and management aspects of the business to their grandson, Justin "Fritz" Dorn. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology from Wisconsin Lutheran College and recently completed online courses to help him transition into the business aspects of WVS before they decide to offer more services. They plan to store patient medical records and look to expand services once settled after the transition. Other plans for WVS include hosting students participating in a South Dakota State University (SDSU) program, Veterinary 2+2, offering the "best of two universities in one unique and innovative professional program for students pursuing veterinary sciences." In the program, students will complete the "first two years of veterinary school at SDSU in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences before moving on to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine to complete the final two years of their professional education." DVS is one of three veterinary hospitals selected to host interns and students perform clinicals for two to four weeks for a "live experience," allowing WVS the opportunity to host the students too. In addition to providing a clinical setting in which to gain experience, students are actively searching for a potential employer after graduating from a veterinary college. Programs such as these allow students to search for future employment and survey a town or community in order to determine if it is a good fit. 
When driving down Main Street, the only thing that has really changed at Headlee Enterprises is the sign on the front of the building which now reads Western Veterinary Services. The same staff, plus one, will continue to provide quality care and look forward to the providing this vital service to future generations. For more information, visit the WVS website at

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
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