From Kangaroo to Catahoula

Story by Michelle Jones

Russellville Animal Clinic is well known throughout the Arkansas river Valley. This year, the doors will have been open for 18 years. With 25 years of experience, Dr. David Oates has developed a business that is centered around the complete care for animals.

With its slogan “We’re More Than Just Medicine,” Russellville Animal Clinic focuses on medical, surgical and dental care and boarding for animals.

However, Dr. Oates does not work alone in his practice. For the past five years, Dr. Heath Stump, BSc. BVMS, has been working under Dr. Oates.

Originally from Perth, Australia, a city with a population of roughly 1,500,000, Heath spent his childhood days with his pet kangaroo, Joey. As a high school junior, Heath came to Russellville High School as an international student with the assistance of Rotary International.

Only three months into his American studies, Heath met Carman Watson, another student at RHS, through mutual friend Tonya Gosnell. Heath and Carman immediately hit it off and began to date. Soon, they were inseparable.

After completing his year of study, Heath moved back to Australia. It was a difficult move, but he and Carman kept their relationship alive and strong. After Carmen graduated high school, she traveled to Australia to visit Heath and his family. Not long afterwards, Heath made the tough decision to leave his family once again and move back to Russellville to attend college at Arkansas Tech University. Carman chose the same path, each declaring their majors in accounting. Both earned and accounting degrees, graduating from Arkansas Tech in 1993.

Once college was completed, Heath gave Carman the chance to change her last name. They were married on July 10, 1993, and began their new life together in Little Rock, both working as CPAs. After three and a half years, however, Heath felt unsatisfied.

“I didn’t mind accounting. It was a good job, and it paid well. There wasn’t anything that was terrible about it, but there wasn’t anything I just loved about it, either. I just realized I didn’t want to do it for the next 40 years.

“I felt like if I was going to do something and put my heart and soul into it, then it better be something I was passionate about and something I really enjoyed,” said Heath.

Thus, he decided to make a career change. Heath immediately knew that veterinarian school should be his new path. He “always had animals [as pets] and always enjoyed being around them, and felt like it was something [he] could get personal satisfaction out of.”

Since he and his wife were looking for something different, they decided to take a big jump and move back to Australia, in the hope that Heath would be admitted to a veterinarian school back in his hometown. Once admitted, Heath was surprised with how tough vet school was. Though it was a challenge, he still enjoyed the latter years of clinical studies and observance.

“I had never had that much difficulty with academics, but I found [vet school] to be a

ot more challenging and a lot tougher. I had to study a lot more,” he said.

Since his mother and father-in-law, Norman and Carol Watson, had been long- time clients of Russellville Animal Clinic, the meeting between Dr. Stump and Dr. Oates was inevitable.

Although Heath was a year from graduation, Dr. Oates kept his second veterinarian position open when his previous vet left in early 2002. Thus, when Heath graduated from Australia’s Murdoch University in late 2002, he and Carman moved back to Russellville immediately to begin his career as a veterinarian for Russellville Animal Clinic.

Dr. Stump will have been a part of Russellville Animal Clinic for five years in June. He and Carman are the parents of two sons, Luke, 3, and Will, 1. Any free moments Heath has
are spent with them, playing golf or camping.

With his whole family still living in Australia, the Stump family often makes trips across the ocean.

Aside from the weather, Dr. Stump noted the largest difference between Australia and the United States is the percentage of avid church goers.

“Religion plays a lot bigger part in people’s lives here than in Australia,” Stump says. “That’s something I love about this area — the good Christian values.”

When asked if he will ever move back to the land down under, he simply says, “I never say ‘never.’” He added, however, that he is extremely happy here and has no plans to relocate anytime soon.

As for the near future, Heath says that he is happy with his two little boys, but his “wife may have something to say about that.”

Dr. Stump is currently in the process of becoming a financial partner in the clinic. This will bind him to the practice, and he says it is a goal that he has looked forward to for many years.

This move will further attach Dr. Stump to the community he has grown to love. There are a number of people he is extremely grateful to, those who helped Heath begin a new life in Russellville.

Rotary International gave Dr. Stump a chance in the beginning. Eddie and Dolores Hicks allowed him to live with them as an international exchange student during high school and while he was attending Tech. Many other people gave him a job and even assisted Heath to pay for his schooling.

Simply put, Dr. Heath Stump finds the community of Russellville “amazing.”

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