“I honestly really appreciate being part of a small community and seeing my clients and pet parents when I’m out and about,” said Dr. Colleen Helgen, owner of Animal Medical Center in Litchfield. “I love being able to connect with our families at a different level.”
Dr. Helgen and her staff have been named this year’s Litchfield Chamber of Commerce Rising Star Award winner, and will be honored at the annual event on Thursday evening, July 29, at the Litchfield Community Center.
The Rising Star award is for a small business owner that is a chamber member, that is involved with the community, and continues to grow and be innovative.
“Animal Medical Center serves not only Litchfield but many other animal families in the surrounding area,” said Litchfield Chamber of Commerce President Mandy Jewell. “Over the 2019-2020 year, the clinic found a way to continue to operate, and even experienced growth. Each year she hosts fun animal family events and finds creative ways to be involved in the community.”
Dr. Helgen bought the Animal Medical Center practice in June 2017 from longtime veterinarian Dr. Jim Pastrovich. Prior to owning Animal Medical Center in Litchfield, Dr. Helgen worked on staff at Capitol Illini Veterinary Services in Springfield.
A native of Greensboro, NC, Dr. Helgen earned her bachelor of science degree in biology from Emory University and her doctorate in veterinary science from the University of Illinois in 2012.
“I liked their program and had family in the area, so it seemed like a good fit,” said Dr. Helgen.
She met her husband, Eric, after her first year of veterinary school, and the couple eventually relocated to Montgomery County. The couple have two daughters, Caroline, age five, and Catherine, age two.
“Eric’s family was so well-rooted in the Litchfield community that we knew that’s where we wanted to raise our family,” she said.
Dr. Helgen added that Eric helps with the business management side of the clinic, which allows her to focus on caring for animals.
Since purchasing the practice, Dr. Helgen has been able to add another veterinarian to the staff, Dr. Tori Worthen, bringing a total of nine employees to Animal Medical Center.
“I pretty much hit the ground running when we opened the practice because it was already fully established,” said Dr. Helgen. “We keep looking for ways to improve patient care and expand the services we offer to grow what we can do for our pet owners.”
In addition to her work at the clinic, Animal Medical Center has become active in the Litchfield community as well. They have hosted Pup-or-Treat events outside the clinic, and most recently was a sponsor of the Paw-ty in the Park at Walton Park, to raise funds for a new dog park.
“When we see patients here, it’s for a short visit,” said Dr. Helgen. “It’s fun to see them outside of the clinic doors and see them in a different way.”
Dr. Helgen also offers a tour of the clinic each year to students in the CEO (Creating Entrpreneurial Opportunities) program, as well as speaks to students at Zion Lutheran School in Litchfield.
Dr. Helgen said she was surprised and very honored to be considered for an award from the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce.
“I think Litchfield is a great community of pet lovers,” said Dr. Helgen. “People here are very passionate about pets being part of their family. When I started, I had no idea how accepted I would be into the community, but they have really accepted me. And I can tell people really care about their pets.”