Dr. Roger Barker knew at an early age what he wanted to be when he grew up. His interest in veterinary medicine began as a child on his family’s farm near Lonsdale, Arkansas. “Becoming a veterinarian just seemed to be a reasonable choice. I learned early on the importance of animal husbandry, preventative medicine, and management of animal resources. Animal wellness and raising quality meat-producing animals sparked my initial interest in veterinary medicine.”
After graduating from Benton High School, Dr. Barker attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for undergraduate studies in pre-veterinary/pre-medical before pursuing and graduating with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Louisiana State University in 1992.
Although born and raised in Saline County, Dr. Barker’s first job opportunity took him away from home. “My first official employment after graduating veterinary school was at Russellville Animal Clinic in Russellville, Arkansas. It was a busy, high quality mixed animal practice where we worked on a very wide array of animals, ranging from equine, cattle, and swine to all forms of companion animals. Long work days and sleepless nights attending to both routine and emergency duties at the clinic and in the field was demanding, but very rewarding. Emergency duties often took entire weekends and nights. As a young, ambitious and poor professional, I eagerly accepted these responsibilities. Finally, there was an opportunity to do what I loved and get paid to do it,” recalls Barker.
After gaining invaluable experience during his time in the Arkansas River Valley, family needs and a personal desire to be back in Saline County brought Dr. Barker, his wife Marsha, and their young children back home. ”Marsha and I began Saline County Animal Clinic in a humble and tiny building on Carpenter Street in August of 1996. I made my best attempt at doing mixed animal practice in our limited space and a pick-up truck. We were quickly able to add both professional and lay staff, and in 2001 we relocated to our current location on Congo Road.”
After years of caring for farm animals, Dr. Barker and his partners, Dr. Patrick Spivey and Dr. Alex Bradford, made the decision to limit their practice to small animal medicine and surgery. “Traveling around the county at all hours of day and night and on weekends was very rewarding, but no longer feasible. It seemed that I had raised three sons from toddler to grade school largely in the cab of my truck. I have no regrets – none. That was just not a good long-term lifestyle.”
Since Dr. Barker’s four-legged patients don’t directly “talk” to him, he often has to fill in the blanks and judge from the patient’s response if his prescribed treatment plan is working. “My favorite part about working in veterinary practice is the challenge of sorting through diagnostic dilemmas and applying carefully gathered information to solve clinical ailments. It is far more fulfilling to utilize modern diagnostics to gather specific information than what was available in previous eras.”
Saline County Animal Clinic also has access to a network of specialists close to home for the extraordinarily complicated cases and procedures. “This network allows us as general practitioners to offer our clients more in-depth expertise through referral without them having to go out of state,” says Barker.
“We at Saline County Animal Clinic have been blessed with a talented group of doctors and a top notch staff, all of whom are fully dedicated to our profession. I am thankful to be able to do what I love in the community that I love. I’m happy to serve in this beloved community.”