Elizabeth Harriman Hill

Small Town Vet

She didn’t know a combine from a cultivator. Her parents thought she was crazy.

Yet Dr. Elizabeth Harriman Hill took the plunge and opened up her own veterinary clinic in small town Iowa right after graduating from the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Oh, did we mention Hill is a Maine native and lived in Boston for several years and had never set foot in Iowa before coming to Ames to attend vet school.

“I met my husband in the middle of my third year and by the time graduation was nearing we knew we were going to be together and stay in Iowa,” Hill said.

Hill’s husband was a farmer from the Ellsworth, Iowa, area. When she began to seek veterinary employment, nothing was available.

“At the time, the job market was pretty saturated for veterinarians,” she said. “There was not much out there in the part of the state where I was going to live.”

Sometime during her job search, it was suggested that maybe Eldora, Iowa, might be a possibility. The community of 2,500 didn’t have a local veterinarian. Hill did her due diligence, speaking with the economic development office, the town’s mayor and others before deciding to open a clinic in Eldora.

Another veterinarian had operated a clinic in Eldora previously but it had been closed for years. The building was still empty but it lacked any equipment although there were dog runs and cages for boarding animals.

“I started out slow,” Hill recalls. “I think we only had eight appointments that first day. Now that would be a bad, slow day.”

Word of mouth brought a steady growth of clients and patients to the Eldora Veterinary Care. Hill primarily sees just dogs and cats, although on the day of this interview she did her first bunny spay.

Looking back, she admits she really didn’t know what she was doing and maybe her parents were right when they thought she was a little crazy to start her own business right out of school.

“I had never worked in a veterinary clinic by myself before,” she said. “I had a lot of questions and my classmates came in real handy.

“I’m super glad I started this business, but sometimes I wonder what I was thinking.”

And while the Maine native misses her home state, she’s more than happy with her choice to reside and work in small town Iowa.

“I just love Eldora,” she said. “I walk through town and know pretty much everybody. Being a part of this community is fantastic.

I love how my small-town life has worked out.”