Mentor, businessman, and friend inspires new scholarship

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.

Oprah Winfrey

Dr. Terry Brown (’70 Animal Sciences, ’74 DVM) helped others achieve their dreams.

Manager of the Pet Emergency Clinic (PEC) in Spokane for more than 40 years, Brown was a respectful, empathetic veterinarian and mentor who inspired by example. Patient and encouraging, he cultivated community while sharing his knowledge and experience with colleagues and students.

Brown showed fellow and future veterinarians how to take pressure in stride and give 100 percent to every animal and pet owner. Nearly two dozen students who worked at the PEC under his mentorship went on to graduate from WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Born in 1948, Brown grew up in rural Sprague, Washington. His love for this land, its lakes, vistas, animals, and people endured throughout his life. In 1966, he moved to Pullman to attend WSU. He considered himself a lifetime Coug – and Pullman his second home. During veterinary school, Brown met Terri Johnson, the sister of a fraternity brother, and they married in 1974. That year, the newlyweds traveled east, where Brown fulfilled his ROTC obligation at the Army Research and Development Center in Massachusetts.

In 1979, Terry started his position at the PEC.

During the late 1970s, emergency practice was evolving in the veterinary profession. The PEC, with its emergency and after-hours services, was unique to the region and state. Brown was instrumental in building the clinic’s thriving practice. In the following decades, the veterinary medicine field underwent seismic changes. Brown honed his business skills and implemented best practices to ensure the PEC continued to grow. His ethical strategies were an example to young veterinarians planning to operate their own practices.

Brown’s passion for life outside the veterinary clinic mirrored that in his professional world. An avid fisherman, skier, and runner, he competed in races, including a marathon. In part, Brown’s dedication to fitness helped him balance the stress of emergency veterinary medicine.

Despite this commitment to good health and the outdoor life, Brown encountered serious illness. In 2006, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

“The type of myeloma he had required bone marrow from a matched donor to give him any chance of a more prolonged remission, but there were no matches in the system,” said Terri, Brown’s wife of 47 years. “His only choice then was an autologous stem cell transplant. This bought him some time, with the hope a match would come into the registry. But he knew the cancer would return.” 

Despite this prospect, Brown returned to the PEC to treat patients, oversee business, and mentor students.

“In 2009, the cancer came back with a vengeance, but there was still no match,” said Terri. “His only hope was to receive and survive a marrow transplant from one of our daughters which was only a half match. He survived several transplants but got GVHD (Graft Versus Host Disease) and was much more ill.”

During this recurrence, Brown persevered through 11 months of grueling treatment and recovery. Resilient and dauntless, Brown returned, once again, to the PEC to continue his mission for animals and people.

In 2012, he received both the Distinguished Veterinary Alumni Award from WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Washington State Veterinary Medicine Association. Then, in 2017, he retired to spend more time with family and friends.

In 2021, Brown unexpectedly passed away. Within months, the community of those whose lives he touched established the “Dr. Terry J. Brown Memorial Scholarship” as a tribute to his legacy. Dr. Marybeth Porter, Dr. Barbara Gores, and Dr. Matt Schmidt, all friends of Brown, were three of many who made contributions to honor their colleague and mentor.

Porter (’81 DVM) initiated the scholarship and was one of its first donors. After graduating from WSU, she returned to her hometown of Spokane. As a small animal practitioner, she referred cases to the PEC and worked closely with Brown.

Gores (’89 DVM) worked for Brown at the PEC from 1984-85, before starting veterinary school at WSU. She continued to work at the clinic until she graduated. An ACVS veterinary surgeon, Gores was recognized with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2022.

Schmidt (‘99 DVM), president of both the Animal Clinic of Spokane and PEC, and an adjunct professor at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, met Brown while working at the PEC in 2000.

In this joint interview, Porter, Gores, and Schmidt reflect on their unique veterinary medicine journeys, and the connections each had with Brown.

When and why did you choose veterinary medicine as your profession?

Porter. As a small child, I loved animals and thought it would be fun to be a veterinarian for my “day job.” I was involved with horses in junior high and college and worked with stable veterinarians whenever possible. My father always encouraged science and math, so when I pulled off an ‘A’ in chemistry at the University of Washington, I realized my dream job might come true.

Gores. I grew up in a family of medical professionals, so I always had an interest in the healing arts of medicine and surgery. From a very early age, I was drawn to and enjoyed caring for animals, so it seemed natural to want to become a veterinarian. I’ve always loved being able to give comfort and healing to pets, in return for the comfort, joy, and healing they give us.

Schmidt. During my junior year, I took Charlie Robbins’ Wildlife Biology class. He chose me to work at WSU’s Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center feeding the grizzlies and cleaning their cages. Later that year, he chose me to help move a grizzly to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for exploratory surgery. To my astonishment, I was able to scrub in and observe the surgery. That day, I decided to quit the football program and pursue a degree in veterinary medicine.

How did Dr. Brown’s approach to life and animal care inspire or influence your own veterinary career and life?

Porter. Terry had a wonderful outlook on life and practice. He had the animal’s interest at heart but worked with the owners to learn what their goals were. He was competent, kind, and respectful to the animals and their owners.

Gores. I feel that without Terry hiring me at the PEC and supporting my goal of getting into WSU, I never would have achieved my goal of becoming a veterinarian, much less a board-certified small animal surgeon. I have no doubt that all the WSU students who passed through the PEC under Terry’s mentorship feel the same way.

Schmidt. Terry built the Pet Emergency Clinic by reaching out to the clinics in Spokane and making them feel like one community. While at PEC, I learned how every veterinarian in town knew and respected each other. That is what Terry built – a community of friendship and an emergency hospital. 

What did you admire most about Dr. Brown?

Porter. Dr. Brown lived his life as a great inspiration to all the veterinarians with whom he worked, and he was a helpful mentor to us. He put the PEC in Spokane on the map as a high-quality emergency care clinic – and he loved what he did.

Gores. Terry relished the challenges of every case no matter how simple or complicated. Instead of being frustrated or upset by a difficult case or situation, he’d focus on the quest to find the solution. He read, researched, and was always open to others’ ideas. His example was the greatest model for what I wanted to achieve in my own career and life.

Schmidt. After working at the PEC about eight years, I missed a scheduled shift for the first time because I found I had brain cancer. Terry sent me a paycheck anyway with a note that said, “You were scheduled to work, so here is your paycheck. Get well.” This was near Christmas, and I had four young kids. This act of kindness was really what Terry was about.

With the help of the community he built, and the graces of God, I beat the impossible odds of the grade 3 malignancy. Then, Terry got cancer and this created an even greater bond between us. We were both helped by the friendships and community we forged through PEC.

Make a contribution to the “Dr. Terry J. Brown Memorial Scholarship”.