By JOYCE McKENZIE, The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 27, 2007
TEMPLE TERRACE – When his wife, Sarah, is happy, Leon Mandell is happy.
And, when Francis – the couple’s 17-year-old longhaired silky black cat with a multitude of health problems – is happy, Sarah Mandell is delighted.
Sarah Mandell has been in high spirits ever since the couple, retired University of South Florida professors, selected veterinarian Link Welborn of Temple Terrace Animal & Bird Hospital as Francis’ professional caregiver early last year.
‘Dr. Welborn is a great doctor. His knowledge is very impressive, and his interaction with Francis is also impressive. The people who work with him are also exceptional,’ Sarah Mandell said. ‘I think the key to it all is that Francis is not unhappy when he comes here.’
It’s people such as the Mandells who also bring joy to Welborn.
‘Every day I see happy clients that value the care and service that we provide. I love it when everything goes right for those clients and pets. That interaction sure is fun,’ he said.
Welborn, of Carrollwood, also recently found great pleasure in learning he had been named 2007 Practitioner of the Year by the American Animal Hospital Association.
The association is an international organization of more than 32,000 veterinary care providers who treat companion animals. Its purpose is to enhance their practices by providing medical care resources and consultants to help each practice meet the organization’s high standards of excellence, according to the association’s Web site.
All four of Welborn’s offices – the others are in New Tampa, south Tampa and Town ‘N Country – are among just 14 percent of companion animal clinics in North America accredited by the association.
Welborn, the 2003-04 president of the organization, said the association has a passion to help practices succeed in every way possible.
‘Becoming involved in organized veterinary medicine, in particular the American Animal Hospital Association, is the best decision I’ve ever made,’ he said. ‘While I’ve put countless hours into association work, like many volunteer leaders in our profession I feel I’ve gotten far more out of it.’
Veterinarian Daniel Aja of Cherry Bend Animal Hospital in Traverse City, Mich., who was chairman of the award’s nominating committee, credited Welborn with writing many of the association’s standards and called him a tireless worker.
‘Link is one of the top veterinarians in the country in organized medicine and was overwhelmingly qualified for this award, the top award for the association. … Tampa is blessed to have him as a veterinarian,’ Aja said.
Dennis A. Feinberg of Charles Towne Veterinary Clinic in Charleston, S.C., and a fellow association member, concurred.
‘He has really committed himself to the betterment of care for the profession,’ Feinberg said. ‘Link chaired our four-year committee to write over 800 standards you have to adhere to. He was the person who created an energy in raising the bar. He’s had a lot of dedication to our profession, and his family has sacrificed so much through the years because of his commitment.’
Welborn, married to Laura and the father of Kaitlin and Christopher, graduated as valedictorian of King High School in 1976. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida and graduated with honors from the University Of Florida College Of Medicine in 1982.
As a teenager, he worked part time for veterinarian James Robinson, then owner of the practice in Temple Terrace that Welborn and veterinarian partner Tim Lassett purchased in 1991. Welborn credited the now-deceased Robinson as being his mentor.
‘I lived on a small farm and had a lot of exposure to animals,’ he said. ‘My mother was a nurse, so it was an obvious combination.’
Board-certified in canine and feline practice, Welborn also serves on the financial advisory committee of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, an international organization that fosters the exchange of veterinary scientific information to advance the quality and availability of small-animal medicine and surgery. The association sponsors continuing education events in the poorest regions of Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
‘At least once a year, I will travel outside the country, but I mainly raise money to have others go,’ Welborn said.
In 2003, he received the Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society’s Outstanding Service Award and was named Veterinarian of the Year by the Florida Veterinary Medical Association. In addition, he recently was presented with the University Of Florida College Of Veterinary Medicine’s 2007 Alumni Achievement Award.
Temple Terrace residents Mindy and Ken DeVane have been clients of Welborn for many years. Their two cocker spaniels are his most recent patients.
‘I trust him implicitly with my children – my furry babies – and he’s helped me through the years with many difficult situations and difficult times,’ Mindy DeVane said. ‘The staff is also terrific.’
Temple Terrace Animal & Bird Hospital office manager Jennifer Underwood said she is honored to be employed by Welborn.
‘It’s like coming to work for somebody famous,’ she said. ‘He’s humble, he’s intelligent and he’s all about what’s in the best interest of others.’