Big Country, Big Impact

Dr. Russell N. Ueckert of Big Country Veterinary Clinic was about 13 years old when he was charmed by veterinary medicine. Dr. Ueckert spent most of his formative years on the family ranch near Abilene, where he was accompanied by his horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, cats and the occasional bottle calf. With each of these friends inevitably came more than a dozen trips to the veterinarian—trips that emboldened a young Dr. Ueckert to pursue a veterinary career.

“I remember visiting Dr. Hodges’ clinic and realizing that this doctor had some amazing abilities,” Dr. Ueckert recalled. “And he got to do really fascinating work with animals. It was at that moment I decided that veterinary medicine was the plan for me.”

A 1992 graduate of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Ueckert has reached his 30th year of practicing. This milestone is admirable, and his veterinary journey over three decades is even more dignified. After serving the Big Country for 26 years with multiple mixed practices, up to five at one point, he followed Abilene’s demand for companion animal services.

In 2018, Dr. Ueckert and his partners built a stunning, not-so-small small-animal clinic that also houses luxury boarding, specialty surgery and internal medicine services. They have become the ultimate referral practice for many rural veterinarians in the area, offering highly technical spinal surgery, all types of orthopedic and soft tissue surgery, CT scans, endoscopy and ultrasound. Big Country Veterinary Clinic partners and associates continue to raise the bar by providing advanced treatment and diagnostics to locals and referrals across the state.

Dr. Ueckert is a friend and leader to many, especially within the veterinary profession. He served as TVMA President in 2015 and stays active as a lifetime TVMA member, supporter of the Veterinary Political Action Committee (VPAC) and member of multiple TVMA committees. He is also a valued advocate of the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) and an avid supporter of TVMF’s programs.

“It is very encouraging to be associated with true philanthropy to those who are part of my profession and beneficiaries of my profession,” Dr. Ueckert said. “I am most appreciative of TVMF because it is not a group that just hands out money. TVMF utilizes the talents and abilities of Texas veterinarians and pursues funding efforts that are important to our profession.”

Most recently, Dr. Ueckert acted on the call to serve his community and committed to participating in TVMF’s LEAP program as a volunteer veterinarian. This is the first LEAP program in the Big Country and is thanks to continued partnerships between Dr. Ueckert, TVMF and Meals on Wheels Plus of Abilene. The LEAP program in Abilene serves around 150 animals annually from Abilene and surrounding areas.

In donating his time and services to LEAP, Dr. Ueckert provides necessary wellness care to animals belonging to elderly, homebound and low-income clients. Routine check-ups with a veterinarian are critical, and LEAP facilitates care for those animals who may not receive it otherwise. The program also allows Big Country Veterinary Clinic to restore an animal’s health and eliminate suffering from treatable conditions.

According to Dr. Ueckert, his favorite part of LEAP is experiencing the heartfelt appreciation of owners.

“They know their beloved friend would not have received the care they needed if it were not for TVMF,” he said. “My staff and I get to be the recipients of that praise, and that makes it all worthwhile.”

Beyond the daily duty of caring for animals, Dr. Ueckert spends time fishing, serving in his church and furthering his 15-year passion for flying planes, a hobby he beautifully describes as “losing the surly bonds of earth to soar in the heavens.” In every interaction, Dr. Ueckert exudes humility and his innate nature to help others. When asked about the importance of giving back, there was certainly no shying away from his heeded responsibility to serve within his chosen profession.

“Without our communities, our work would have no purpose,” he said. “We have the responsibility to return something to the people around us who are in need. Veterinarians are in a unique position to provide meaningful services that give back to the communities in which we live and work. Every veterinarian should serve his or her community and profession with a portion of the time and talents that he or she is endowed with. Our future will be better for what we give.”

Together, veterinarians, clinics and passionate individuals embody TVMF’s mission to support the veterinary profession and our communities in Texas by providing resources, education and programs for the responsible stewardship of animals. Like Dr. Ueckert in the Big Country, TVMF supporters all across the state never cease to make a big impact.