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Meet the Vet: Dr. Hugh of Durbin Creek Animal Hospital

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

One of the most frequent questions that Dr. Hugh receives is not actually about animals! Many people ask Dr. Hugh about his background, where he's from, and how he became a vet. We're excited to share a little bit about our vet and he's looking forward to meeting you, and your furry family, in person!!

Dr. Hugh was born in Washington D.C, but he moved to Fruit Cove, Florida in northwest St. Johns County, right on the same road Durbin Creek Animal Hospital is located, in elementary school! He graduated from Nease High School, right around the corner from his office. At Nease he played baseball, he was captain of the High-Q trivia team, and he graduated as a National Merit Finalist, an award granted to him because his grades and near perfect SAT score were among the top one half of one percent of all graduating seniors in the entire United States that year!

Dr. Hugh graduated from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He braved the cold, grey winters and snow at the small (less than 1,000 students) all male school and earned a Religion Major and an Art History minor. He loved learning about the history of religions and studied abroad one semester in Israel. There he experienced life on a kibbutz working farm and then studied at the university in Haifa.

Image Credit: Wabash College

After growing up with lots of pets, fishing, spending time in the wild nature of Potter County, Pennsylvania, and having worked at a local animal hospital from high school through summers in college, Dr. Hugh decided to study to become a veterinarian. However, being a religion major, he needed lots of prerequisites to apply to vet school. To earn the money to take these classes, Dr. Hugh entered Americorps. As a volunteer in rural Georgia, he was honored to help build homes for low income families through Habitat for Humanity for a year. He earned a $5,000 scholarship from the Americorps program, and finished his prerequisites at University of North Florida with all A's!

Dr. Hugh attended University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine from 2006 - 2010. One of the most important things about those years, besides studying, was that Tim Tebow, who played football for Dr. Hugh's alma mater, Nease High School, started at UF that year, too! UF won 2 national championships in football AND 2 championships in basketball while Hugh was at UF! There was a ton of studying in vet school, but also lots of championship celebrations! Dr. Hugh graduated with honors cum laude (did we mention there was a lot of studying!) and won the Charlie F. Bild award as the best clinical student in dual track studies - large AND small animal care!

Image Credit: University of Florida

During his time at UF Veterinary School, Dr. Hugh did externships at the local Alachua County animal shelter (hint hint: that's where our black and white office kitty, Zambrano, came from!), local dairy farms, and small and large animal practices. He even lived in Washington D.C. for the summer in 2009 while conducting a research study at the National Institutes of Health.

After UF, Dr. Hugh was matched with an extremely busy specialty practice in Cooper City, South Florida for an internship. He did rotations on heart health, cancer, orthopedics, neurology, and emergency medicine. Being so close to Miami, he cared for famous pets, like NFL player Joe Namath's dog, Queen Latifah's cat, and famous bloggers! It was emergency medicine that he was most interested in so after the year was up, he returned to Gainesville and worked as an emergency veterinarian and enjoyed treating UF football player, and later NFL player, Percy Harvin's dog! Dr. Hugh then moved back home to St. Johns County to raise his family by the coast and served 17 local veterinarians from three counties in northeast Florida as an emergency veterinarian at their regional veterinary emergency center. During his time as an emergency veterinarian, he treated many extreme cases, like Florida black bear attacks on dogs and pets that had ingested all kinds of things like drugs, corn cobs, rubber toys, chocolate and poisonous plants. He treated motor vehicle collision injuries where the dog came to him and the owner went to the hospital emergency room next door, gun shot wounds, pets that had been involved in house fires, or various infections that couldn't wait until morning. He managed and triaged an emergency room as the only doctor on nights, weekends and holidays. He was able to smoothly move emergencies through exams while helping his technicians monitor sick animals that needed to stay over night and was even able to calmly prepare for and conduct emergency surgery in the middle of the night at a moments notice with a room full of clients and their pets waiting. His years in the emergency room allowed for amazing experiences with expertise that he brings to his current patients and animal hospital!

Starting from Dr. Hugh's internship as a newly graduated veterinarian and extending to his emergency work, Dr. Hugh has always had a peaceful and calming bedside manner. From furry families in shock from unexpected emergencies, those coming in for specialty surgeries or treatments, or those simply wondering if they had an emergency and bringing in their pet at 3:00am to put their mind at ease, his clients always had the same questions: "Where do you work during the day? Can you be our vet all the time?" Over and over he had to respond with a thank you, and explain that their facility wasn't set up for day practice work, or wellness care. After many years of problem solving emergency level solutions that would help furry friends in the best way at the lowest cost, and listening to those requests for Dr. Hugh to be their vet, Dr. Hugh decided to start researching how to open a day practice.

Ironically, he found a space right on the road he grew up on, Racetrack Road! Once the space was identified, Dr. Hugh got right to work to change the zoning to allow for veterinary care, work closely with an architect to design the layout of a veterinary office in an extremely small, but state of the art space, and work with a local interior designer to plan a space that would feel like home for pets. He knew he wanted to keep his office small, but high quality so he could continue to pass on savings to his clients. He also knew he wanted to name his office after a natural feature. He decided on Durbin Creek, which is a tidal creek located just south of the office and runs north and west until it flows into Julington Creek, which flows west and on into the St. Johns River.

After 2 years of searching and planning, Dr. Hugh opened Durbin Creek Animal Hospital on September 10, 2018! He loves meeting patients and helping them solve skin allergy problems, getting to the bottom of illnesses, curing repeated earaches, and seeing his patients in wellness situations, caring for them over their lifetime instead of just for one emergency. He sees dogs and cats, but also chickens, snakes, guinea pigs and rats, pigs, lizards, turtles, bunny rabbits, and anything that can fit through his door! He does high level surgeries at affordable rates and he can do emergency surgeries in house, saving his clients money since they don't have to go to a specialty/emergency center. At the same time, he's versed enough to help advise clients when it is time to problem solve with a specialist and he has a network of local doctors he works closely with in which to refer his patients. He still sees the occasional emergencies for his patients, but he loves the day practice care and also serving local animal shelters with low cost spays and neuters. He also loves spending nights and weekends with his family now that he is open regular day hours; he especially enjoys finally being home with his two young children for holidays.

Bringing this all full circle, Dr. Hugh and Staff are honored to be an award winning animal hospital just 3 years after opening his practice! Durbin Creek Animal Hospital is a two time, back to back, Best in Pets Jacksonville Magazine award winner for Best Exotic Animal Hospital in Jacksonville! This award is extra special because it is voted on by readers of Jacksonville Magazine - our own clients helped us win these awards. Dr. Hugh loves caring for skunks, lizards, raccoons, rabbits, and snakes, along with dogs and cats, and is thankful for the votes and almost 200 five star reviews his clients have been moved to leave on Google Reviews!

The word has quickly spread about Dr. Hugh's affordable care, his quiet, listening, and kind bedside manner, his office that looks like a home with no exam tables in the rooms, and how his patients climb right into his lap for their exam and are no longer scared to visit their vet. Families come in from all around the Northeast Florida area as they move to Jacksonville and the rapidly growing northeast St. Johns County into Nocatee, Bartram Springs, Bartram Park, Durbin Crossing, Shearwater, Beachwalk and more CR 210 communities. Families also come from as far away as Daytona Beach, Palm Bay...and even Alabama, to see Dr. Hugh! Dr. Hugh is so honored to serve his community in which he grew up, care for the many pets new to the area, and provide affordable, high quality care. He can't wait to meet you and your furry family!

Find more information about Durbin Creek Animal Hospital's services and location at or at (904) 770-7615!

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