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@Work: Imperial Animal Hospital

Nov. 18, 2004 – Walking into the Imperial Animal Hospital, you might hear the squawk of Phil, a Brown Throated Conure, the native bird of St. Thomas. Phil might also say "hello" or "groovy," or make a noise that sounds suspiciously like a cell phone.
"He was sick and someone brought him in to euthanize him," Dr. Tripp Stewart, owner of Imperial Animal Hospital, said. "He's loud as can be but every cute. When I found him he was on his back, eyes closed. He became healthy and he's bonded with us."
If you're a pet owner on the island, you might know Imperial Animal Hospital as Dave Nappier's old place. It's the same location in Contant, but the face that greets you and your pet is a little younger. For the past year and a half, Imperial has been under Stewart's reins.
This vet took the scenic route to get to where he is professionally. After graduating from Princeton with a degree in neuropsychology, he took a couple years to teach high school in New York City. At night he attended classes at Columbia, and then went to University of Pennsylvania for vet school.
"I was very close to going somewhere crazy to work. I'd spent a combined total of around nine months in Africa working as a vet and exploring. I wanted to be somewhere tropical while having the amenities of a U.S. home," he said. He found work on St. John with Dr. Palmenteri five years ago, and has been on the islands ever since.
Here on St. Thomas, the doctor and his staff treat pet basics like heartworm, tick fever and mange. But there's also an exotic aspect to his patients that he wouldn't see as much of in the states.
"I'll see anything: iguanas and turtles. I do Coral World work for free so I see sea turtles, ducks, whatever they bring me. We have a really nice mix," Stewart said. In fact, he'll see anything that can fit in his office.
There's no quarantine for pets in the Virgin Islands, so because of the transient population, the clinic sees diseases from the West, Southeast, and Northwest. "It makes it a little more interesting. You try to know everything that's out there," he said.
Just in case Stewart doesn’t know what's out there, chances are good his associate Dr. Jan Perkins will have an idea. "It means we have two sets of eyes and two brains for the price of one. If there's something we can't figure out we have a second opinion right here."
Both Stewart and Perkins go to continuing education classes every year to make sure they're up to date on the latest animal issues.
"In veterinary medicine there's a big difference between clients and patients," Stewart said. "Clients pay the bills. Our patients can't pay the bills and can't describe their problems."
Since buying his own clinic, Stewart has made a few changes that make his patients very happy—the front office is stocked with toys and food for the animals.
When asked what else makes his animal clinic stand out from the rest, Stewart is modest. "We do our job, we fix animals." But as a client, you might like the way the clinic is run. "The things that make us stand out are cleanliness, hospitality, we get you in on time, we run modern stuff," said Stewart.
Stewart was recently appointed to the Veterinary Board of the Virgin Islands, where he will serve as a policy maker in veterinary medicine for the Virgin Islands.
The Imperial Animal Hospital is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Call 774-7034 for an appointment.

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