Community and family are central to Malter’s philosophy of life, which became obvious to Vander Pas from the moment they met.
After getting the callback from Malter, Vander Pas drove the hour and half from Corvallis for a working interview at Oceanlake. “We just clicked and got along, and I really liked it. At that time it was just Dr. Malter by herself,” Vander Pas said. “I moved out here, and I worked for two straight years as a veterinary assistant. But at that time we were so small I kind of just did everything: I started doing reception, moved into rooms, moved into surgery and treatment, even helping with billing.”
By working at the clinic, Vander Pas earned the experience she wanted to apply to vet school. She only applied to the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. “Mainly because cost-wise, I didn’t think I could afford out-of-state,” Vander Pas said. “Magically I got in. I was so happy!”
During the summers in her first three years of vet school, Vander Pas returned to Oceanlake to work at the clinic. Malter and Kincaid opened their home to Vander Pas. “I lived with them and stayed with them through the years when I was working in the clinic,” Vander Pas said. “They’re like my second moms.”
“She’s like family,” Malter said.
More Space, Same Philosophy
As Vander Pas was working her way through vet school, Malter and her team at Oceanlake were busy expanding the practice. They completely outgrew the old original clinic and built a new 4,800-square-foot facility, which opened in 2021.
According to Malter, the growth wasn’t driven from a desire to expand for expanding’s sake, but rather to better serve the community she and Kincaid hold dear. Veterinary care on the central Oregon Coast is in huge demand with few veterinarians to go around. Lincoln City only has one other clinic. “All of us are booked out almost a month or so in advance,” Vander Pas said. “We also see a lot of clients that are all the way out from Newport or Depoe Bay, and they say, ‘We can't get in anywhere else,’” Vander Pas said.
Malter wanted to meet that need and offer her family approach to medicine to more folks. “Caring for pets like family is our motto. When we built this clinic it was super important for me that we didn't lose that warm feeling that we had,” Malter said. “I've made a lot of really amazing friends living here that probably mostly started as clients, you know? And that's the way that we approach medicine in this clinic.”
Kyla Vrell started at Oceanlake as one of its first employees shortly after it first opened in 2010. She began as a receptionist, and with the encouragement and support of Malter, worked her way through different roles, earning her certified veterinary technician credentials in 2019. “Dr. Malter came in after hours all the time on weekends to do my clinicals with me – so much stuff that not every boss would do,” she said. “Dr. Malter started as a technician, so she understands all the different roles of the clinic. She’s very understanding and tries to make everyone’s work life really enriched.”
Dr. Malter and CVT Kyla Vrell do an exam on Neighbor Cat.
Vrell credits Malter’s leadership with creating a supportive and caring environment for the staff that translates out to patient and client care even as the clinic has grown. “When I started it was the smaller clinic, so there was only like me and two other girls and just Dr. Malter, so it was a very small unit. I was worried as we grew that we'd lose that close family relationship,” she said. “But she's just kept the same model, the same attitude, even now with very full staff and a lot of clients coming in and out.”
With the bigger facility, Malter was able to add a second veterinarian to the staff. Dr. Kelsey Merriam joined shortly after graduating from Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2021. And there were always plans for Vander Pas to continue working at the clinic after completing her veterinary studies.
Today the Oceanlake team is the three doctors; certified veterinary technicians Vrell and Julie Mendoza; office manager Kim Lobdell; client services representatives Mary Greenwood, Diane Wright and Rylee Senner; and veterinary assistants Samantha Barrett, Jacob Lenander, Shelby Mandeville, Mary Ann Olson, Megan Smith, Sherrie Tenney, Macy Mullins and Elizabeth Kirkendall.
The Oceanlake crew at the grand opening of the new clinic. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jen Malter.