Ridge Animal Hospital: Taking care of Farmville’s pets since 1978

Published 10:13 am Saturday, October 1, 2022

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By Ireland Seagle

Farmville the Magazine

Did you know the veterinarians and veterinary assistants at Ridge Animal Hospital see more than 40 patients daily? This achievement is possible due to the practice’s recently finished renovations. Completed in December 2021, this new expansion arose from the hospital’s growing clientele.

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As Hospital Manager Sydney French explains, “For the last few years, we felt that we had outgrown our space.”

The hospital’s treatment areas and exam rooms were congested, preventing veterinary staff from effectively seeing appointments. For this construction, “our goal was to create a very practical workspace where our patients and clients can be comfortable and our doctors and staff can operate most efficiently,” French continues. Many of the hospital staff and veterinarians, including Dr. Mark French, were influential in these new modifications.

After creating plans to begin construction in summer 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the hospital’s projects until early 2021. During the renovations, both the practice’s veterinarians and staff were flexible about working amongst the chaos. The patients and clients at Ridge Animal Hospital were also very understanding regarding the new modifications. “There were certainly a few rough spots – the three days spent tearing down our old brick chimney come to mind – and the hardest part was working in a space that was constantly in flux,” describes Sydney French. In the face of these obstacles, the staff at Ridge Animal maintained their professional and considerate attitudes.

Despite the disorder generated by the construction, Ridge Animal Hospital remained open during the majority of the renovation. The practice only closed early for one week to redo their floors and to paint one or two exam rooms at a time. In fact, the hospital staff decided to keep the building operational due to a local and nationwide demand for veterinary services. As Sydney French emphasizes, “We were concerned that decreasing our hours or patient volume would place undue hardship on both our clients and our nearby emergency hospitals.”

Following months of work, the modifications at Ridge Animal Hospital were completed. The renovation nearly doubled the practice’s square footage by adding two new exam rooms, an ultrasound room, surgical suite, dental suite, a dedicated lab space, new isolation ward, a cat ward, doctors’ office, and a staff break room. Some of the hospital’s existing spaces, including the front desk and treatment areas, were also expanded. With these changes, the hospital has increased its capacity to see more patients and use its treatment spaces more productively. “Things like… streamlining our surgical prep area ensures that every doctor has their own space to work in without crowding each other, which in turn leads to a calmer and more efficient environment for our patients,” Sydney French details.

This recent expansion follows a previous modification in 2007 when the hospital increased their number of exam rooms from two to four, strengthening the staff’s capacity to aid and treat clients. During this construction, the practice also expanded its treatment and kennel spaces, along with building their current lobby.

Before its two respective renovations, Ridge Animal Hospital emerged from the efforts of Dr. James “Jimmy” Gates and his late wife, Dianne Gates. Following their aspirations to bring modern veterinary medicine to the Farmville area, the Gates’ opened Ridge Animal in 1978. In truth, Dianne had a lasting impact on the business. “She was instrumental in its foundations, both tangible and philosophical,” Sydney French explains. Although Dr. Gates retired from the practice three years ago, he still visits the hospital from time to time.

While the staff at Ridge Animal Hospital is delighted about the building’s new improvements, they continue to plan for the practice’s future. “Our goal is to continue to serve our clients and patients for many years to come and to bring new veterinarians into our hospital, so that we can accommodate all those who need us,” Sydney French states.


Dr. Mark French

Where are you from? Mt. Washington, Kentucky, which is just south of Louisville.

Where did you go to school? I attended Elizabethtown Community College for two years, then I went to the University of Kentucky for one year. I then completed my Bachelor’s in Animal Science at Auburn University in 1985.

Why did you choose this profession? I actually decided in middle school that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved science and wanted to be outdoors. I had no idea what veterinary medicine involved until I spent time at a vet clinic in high school. I loved it, so I stuck with it.

How long have you been a veterinarian? Since 1985, so almost 37 years.

How long have you been at Ridge Animal Hospital? My entire career. When I searched for a place to learn veterinary medicine, I thought Ridge Animal was the best place for me.

Tell me a unique fact about yourself. I grew up with eight sisters and am the only boy of the siblings.


Dr. Andrea Kellum

Where are you from? All over Virginia. I grew up in Roanoke and Ashland and have lived all over Virginia. I lived in Culpeper for a while, and now I live in Rice.

Where did you go to school? I graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006.

Why did you choose this profession? I’ve always loved animals. I have always been intrigued by biology and the body. The more I learned about it, the more I was fascinated by it. I also like this profession because there is something new all the time. I’m always learning there are better ways to do things, and there is always something more to learn in this career.

How long have you been a veterinarian? I have been in a vet clinic since I was 15. I worked there in high school when I could. After getting my degree, I worked elsewhere for five years. I then found myself back at a vet clinic, so I went back to school to become a veterinarian.

How long have you been at Ridge Animal Hospital? I started in January 2016, so six years.

Tell me a unique fact about yourself. I really like horses and camping. I love to travel. If I can travel with my horses and go camping, that’s what I prefer to do.


Dr. Chelsie Novitske

Where are you from? Keysville

Where did you go to school? I graduated from Virginia Tech with my Bachelor of Science in Animal & Poultry Sciences. Then, I attended North Carolina State University to complete my Master’s in Physiology.

Why did you choose this profession? My love for animals and the drive to help them feel better.

How long have you been a veterinarian? For four years. I graduated with my degree four years ago as well.

How long have you been at Ridge Animal Hospital? Almost four years. It will be four years in July.

Tell me a unique fact about yourself. I love playing disc golf with my husband. I also have a 220-pound English Mastiff named Gus.