Alumni News | Giving Stories

He’s Getting the Message Out: It’s Rewarding to Give Back

[Dr. Tony Kremer]

1990 Grad Tony Kremer Supports Scholarships

He owns nine veterinary hospitals around Chicago, including a gleaming new general practice center in the Old Town neighborhood that’s believed to be the largest in the city. He owns two more hospitals near Columbus, Ohio.

He’s a regular guest on Windy City TV and radio, the preeminent expert on pets in America’s third largest media market, and hosts his own “Pet Lifestyle Radio” program. And recently, he established a TV partnership with National Geographic called “Animal ER Live.”

Help Save Pets, the nonprofit venture he created, has rescued more than 14,000 animals since its founding in 2000.

Like Will Ferrell in Anchorman, Dr. Tony Kremer – or “Dr. Tony,” as he’s more popularly known – is kind of a big deal.

Yet when the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine alum was invited to join the College’s capital campaign cabinet, Dr. Kremer didn’t hesitate, continuing his tradition of support for the institution that launched his career.

Scholarships Linked to “Things that Are Close to Our Heart”

“For the last 10 years or so, we’ve been contributing scholarships to junior and senior students as a way to give back, a nice way to remain connected to the University,” he says. “We started with one scholarship and then when we realized the impact, we added more. They’re not for huge amounts of money, but every bit helps. It’s been a really rewarding experience.”

The scholarships, Dr. Kremer notes, are “aimed at things that are close to our heart within our practice structure.” One is a shelter medicine scholarship, underscoring the Help Save Pets initiative that continues to adopt out 1,200 to 1,500 homeless pets every year.

“Along with gaining great experience in shelter medicine for the veterinarians that come to visit or stay with us, we are saving the animal and in turn building brand-new clients into our practices,” Dr. Kremer says. “It’s been a great program for us. And when we realized how much it did for the students, we wanted to get in touch with veterinarians that have like minds and really promote shelter medicine.”

Advanced Surgery, Practice Management

A second scholarship is targeted for students who want to perform advanced surgery in private practice, a goal for Dr. Kremer when he took post-graduate courses in orthopedic surgery at The Ohio State University. “I didn’t go back and do a residency, because there was no way I could sacrifice that kind of time,” he explains. “A lot of my time is spent managing and recruiting and exploring new acquisitions, but I still get into the hospitals and teach surgery to our newer veterinarians.

“That’s really rewarding to me. I love to have a vet send me an X-ray and say, ‘Look, I did this procedure on my own.’ To me, that’s more gratifying than doing the surgery myself. There are opportunities for veterinarians to do some really great advanced surgery if you have the right training.”

Yet another scholarship is intended to assist students interested in practice management and veterinary economics, an area Dr. Kremer knows well since joining his first hospital, in Plainfield, Ill., as an associate almost three decades ago.

“By seeing an employer, a mentor who had more than one hospital, I just figured, ‘Well, that’s how you do it!’” says Dr. Kremer, whose love for the profession was kindled at age 13 while cleaning out dog cages for a veterinarian in his suburban Chicago neighborhood. “I didn’t consider the limitations I think a lot of vets place on themselves. ‘Will I ever be able to own a practice? Will I be able to run it once I have it?’

“The environment of veterinary medicine is changing so dramatically. There are plenty of jobs and opportunities, starting salaries are better than ever. So we want to impress upon them that if they have the drive to be managers, partners, owners, they can do extremely well. There’s still room for that.”

He Spreads the Good News

So excited is he to spread the good news about his profession and the proper care of pets — and do so professionally — that Dr. Kremer took a year away from his practice in 2012 to study at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting in Chicago. “I love doing that, getting the message out,” he says.

He also loves interacting with students at the College of Veterinary Medicine. While presenting his scholarships, “We got to connect with a lot of people at the College’s development team and realized how important the fundraising aspect is in helping students and making college more affordable,” Dr. Kremer says. “You don’t want the reason a potentially tremendous veterinarian doesn’t go to school is that they can’t afford it.”

By Jim McFarlin