An Insider's Look into Saguaro Veterinary Surgery

March 20, 2024

Saguaro Veterinary Surgery works to create a lively and constructive learning environment in which students can sharpen their surgical skills alongside highly qualified veterinary surgeons.

Two veterinary students in scrubs assist with a surgery on a Shih Tzu dog.

As University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine students traverse their clinical year, they develop vital real-world skills under the mentorship of working professionals in veterinary hospitals, like the incredible team at Saguaro Veterinary Surgery. This clinical site works to create a lively and constructive learning environment in which students can sharpen their surgical skills alongside highly qualified veterinary surgeons. The family-run practice, led by Dr. Ryan McCally, Dr. David Hutcheson, and Ashley McCally, provides an enriching experience where students can thrive and develop skills they can employ as veterinarians. 

Dr. McCally and Dr. Hutcheson work together with a veterinary student to perform a surgery.

Saguaro Veterinary Surgery

Unlocking Surgical Expertise 

At Saguaro Veterinary Surgery, students delve into the intricacies of veterinary surgery, gaining comprehensive insights into the field. In a typical day, says Dr. McCally, students begin their morning by accompanying the doctors to check in on and assess post-op patients and conduct new patient consultations. Afternoons are dedicated to surgeries and other medical procedures. Dr. McCally shared, 

“In the afternoons, students assist with procedures like placing catheters, drawing blood, inducing anesthesia, as well as scrubbing into surgical procedures with us and assisting with surgery and recovery. Because of this, students get to see those cases all the way through, from beginning to end.” 

Saguaro tackles everything from routine surgeries to more advanced work like intraoperative fluoroscopy, surgical oncology, laparoscopy, and joint arthroscopy, allowing students to gain exposure to the entire surgical spectrum. Dr. Hutcheson emphasized the importance of student participation in weekly rounds that cover anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and implants, creating a rich educational experience. He shared, 

“We try not to pigeonhole students with a certain set of rounds. We include a lot of didactic learning here as well [as hands-on learning]. We start questioning them not only on surgery but also on anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, implants, and more. We make it interactive and it’s a pretty unique learning experience.” 

As students develop valuable surgical skills, they learn to use specialized surgical equipment in a professionally outfitted hospital like Saguaro. Dr. McCally said, 

“One thing about [completing a clinical rotation] here is that students can stay local and be in a place where they're exposed to the height of where veterinary surgery is now, including the leading edge of technology and equipment.” 

Teamwork is Key 

What sets Saguaro Veterinary Surgery apart is its emphasis on teamwork and personal connections. Ashley McCally notes the seamless collaboration among the close-knit team, saying, 


“We’re family run and local. All of our technicians have worked with Dr. McCally pretty much since he moved here 7 years ago. They joined us when we opened our own practice because they also enjoyed keeping it small and family run. This environment lets them focus on client care. We’re a very close team that works well together and we enjoy incorporating the students into that team and letting them learn what surgeons do every day.” 

This team-centered focus is designed to foster a supportive environment for animals, staff, and students alike. The practice’s unique approach involves joint surgeries: both Dr. McCally and Dr. Hutcheson participate together in each surgery at this practice. This approach provides students with well-rounded perspectives and the chance to witness efficient, team-based surgery in action. 

Three individuals in surgical gowns participate in a surgery, with their backs to the camera and x-rays visible on the wall in front of them.


Mentorship and Future Vision 

The team at Saguaro expressed their enthusiasm for sharing their expertise with the next generation of veterinarians, saying,  

“Because we are small and have the time to do it, we spend a lot of time with students who are interested in working their way into internships and residencies, talking through that process with them. Dr. McCally and Dr. Hutcheson spend time explaining how they got where they are, how they chose to work through that process, what their suggestions are to help students maximize the benefits of what the U of A does. We’re also happy to chat with them about running a small business, which most veterinarians will deal with at some point.”  

Saguaro’s familial atmosphere, underscored by its presence in the Tucson community as a family run and local practice, offers a unique setting for students to learn not just surgical skills but also observe the nuances of running a small veterinary business. The team is not solely focused on surgery; they enjoy sharing insights into internships, residencies, and the ins and outs of veterinary business.  

Saguaro Veterinary Surgery is more than a top-tier veterinary hospital; it is also a hub for learning, mentorship, and a personalized experience for both students and clients. The passion embodied by the team at Saguaro offers VetCats exciting opportunities to develop as veterinarians and explore further goals in the veterinary field if they desire to pursue veterinary surgery. With skills gained at this clinical site, Arizona students take one step closer to becoming day-one-ready veterinarians serving their communities.