From an early age, Dr. Terry Clekis always knew he wanted to become a veterinarian. After completing his undergraduate studies at the College of Charleston and graduate studies in reproductive physiology at the University of Georgia, Dr. Clekis went on to attend and graduate from the University of Georgia’s veterinary school in 1983.
After gaining experience as an associate veterinarian and hospital owner in the Charleston, South Carolina area, and St. Petersburg, Florida, Dr. Clekis purchased Braden River Animal Hospital in 2002 and built the current state-of-the-art facility behind the original building in 2007. After many successful years at Braden River Animal Hospital, Dr. Clekis further expanded the grounds by building a new boarding and grooming center adjacent to Braden River Animal Hospital to help offer comprehensive care. In 2017, he expanded to the greater Sarasota-Bradenton area and opened North River Animal Hospital in Parrish, Florida.
Today, Dr. Clekis is instrumental and influential in setting the direction for veterinary medicine. He is widely known for his expertise in wellness care, and he routinely speaks on the use of cutting-edge products and protocols related to veterinary medicine. Dr. Clekis has also been featured in many local, state and national publications such as Veterinarian Compendium and the Merial Monitor. Under his leadership, Braden River Animal Hospital is one of the few nationally recognized clinical trial research sites for all major animal health pharmaceutical companies. He is also well-known for his work in organized veterinary medicine and disaster relief.
When Dr. Clekis moved back to Florida in 1992, he began working with Bill Goldston, who became his mentor. Dr. Clekis credits Dr. Goldston’s involvement in the Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as his driving force for joining organized veterinary medicine.
“He taught me that it was important to give back to organized veterinary medicine. Before then, I would go to meetings and stuff like that, but I never really thought I was one of those ‘joiner’ kind of guys,” Dr. Clekis said. “It was under his guidance and suggestions, suggestions more like ‘You’re going to the freaking meetings!’ that I learned it was important to give back to the profession that’s been supporting me.”
Dr. Clekis was instrumental in starting and serving as president of the Manatee County Veterinary Medical Society. In 2007, he was awarded a Gold Star Award by the FVMA, which recognizes outstanding contributions to veterinary medicine. In 2019, he was awarded Veterinarian of the Year for his outstanding leadership, service and dedication to his team while offering aid in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. He was a board member of the Southeast Guide Dog Association, the Manatee County Humane Society and the American Heartworm Society. Dr. Clekis is an active member of the AVMA, the FVMA, and the Florida Veterinary Corps.
Dr. Clekis said one of his greatest passions involves giving back to the veterinary community and supporting younger veterinary professionals. His reputation landed him an invite to serve as a facilitator for Veterinary Management Group (VMG), where he organizes biannual meetings of twenty veterinarians from across the country to discuss best business practices in an ever-changing industry.
As Dr. Clekis became involved in organized veterinary medicine, he began to lean toward disaster relief. And then, in 2004, four hurricanes, Charlie, Francis, Ivan and Gene, rocked Florida and brought Dr. Clekis truly into the disaster community. An advocate of preparedness, he cites having a plan as the most important thing veterinarians and their offices can do to be ready.
“The more people know and are thinking about this, the more prepared we will be,” he said. “Preparation will help ensure that the animals in the state are well taken care of. Disaster preparedness starts at home. Priority is to take care of your family first and expand that to your business, staff, clients, etc. Once your family and business are secured, that’s half the battle; only then you can start reaching out to your colleagues to assist.”
Dr. Clekis has served as the FVMA’s Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair since 2010, where he is responsible for ensuring that all veterinary hospitals have a plan of action for their clients and patients in the event of a natural disaster. Thinking about his veterinary legacy, Dr. Clekis hopes the disaster preparedness committee will be organized, self-sufficient and more than a committee of one – himself. At the end of his tenure, he aims for it to be a self-perpetuating, well-oiled machine that anyone can step into – and he encourages the veterinary community to step up. Having a plan, distributing disaster preparedness information to clients, and reaching out locally to emergency operations centers and other county officials. He notes that it’s key to establish relationships before disaster strikes.
“The more you can reach out locally the better the response, rather than waiting on state or national responses. You need to be prepared yourself. I’m in a very unique position to have these relationships with industry, with the state, the FVMA, the University of Florida and just by the nature of my personality, I know a lot of people. Disaster medicine is a relationship business. The time to meet people is not during a disaster but before. It’s amazing to know I can bring people together and facilitate a response, just based on who I know.”
Dr. Clekis enjoys being a vital part of the Manatee County and Bradenton communities. Whether in the hospital, educating on disaster preparedness, or on the road with his family in their RV, Dr. Clekis is committed to ensuring that he does everything in his power to build long-term relationships with anyone he comes in contact with.
When asked about why he has dedicated so much time and effort to this work, he only has one answer: “To give back to the community that has welcomed me with open arms.”