Newly Reopened Palm Springs Animal Hospital, Dr. Peter Henein and John Garcia to Honored by the Nonprofit Amy’s Purpose

Amy's Purpose to Honor Local Animal Hospital PALM SPRINGS — Dr. Peter Henein, DVM, didn’t come all the way from Egypt just to see one of the modern wonders of this Southern California desert get lost in the sands of time.

But that’s what was about to happen to the Palm Springs Animal Hospital when the Coachella Valley was faced with a veterinary crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospital’s corporate owners closed the venerable institution July 31 due to diminishing profits. It had reduced hours and cut staff. Employees had been told on June 2 they were being laid off. The hospital team of veterinarians had shrunk from four to one. Henein was the last man guarding the Alamo. He had treated the furry loved ones of pet owners including Barry Manilow and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson since 2010. He felt he couldn’t let his patients down.

So, he bought the hospital.

Amy's Purpose to Honor Local Animal Hospital

John Garcia with Baxter

Veterinary nurse John Garcia and front desk associate Randy Funderburk returned to work on Aug. 1. On Aug. 7, the Palm Springs Animal Hospital officially re-opened with all its former employees returning to work.

The Palm Springs Animal Hospital staff threw a surprise appreciation party for Henein and his wife, Irene, the office manager, on July 21. The City of Palm Springs celebrated its re-opening on Nov. 3 with City Councilwoman Christy Holstege reading a proclamation in Henein’s honor.

But few people heard of Henein’s heroics. The veterinarian who left Egypt at age 17 signed a nondisclosure agreement forbidding him from identifying the former corporate owners. So he couldn’t invite any media to hear the proclamation because it mentioned the corporation’s name.

Most pet lovers didn’t even realize there had been a change of ownership.

“Nobody knew anything,” Henein said in a recent interview at the animal hospital. “They were supposed to come in on the back burner and make things bigger and better. Did they come in intentionally to cut the staff and cut the hours? No. It’s just COVID took a toll on the hospital. The hospital was losing money for sure, and it was not feasible to hire doctors to work. There was not (enough) business.”

Henein began working at the Palm Springs Animal Hospital when it was owned by the late DVM, Steven Salk, scion of the legendary local veterinarians Herman and Sylvia Salk and nephew of the creator of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk. Henein bought the hospital from Salk, becoming CEO of St. Paul Veterinary Services. But the corporation whose-name-cannot-be-spoken came around a few years later with proposals to grow the hospital beyond Henein’s capabilities. So, Henein sold it and remained in charge of veterinary services.

“The corporation had planned to expand next door,” said Henein. “They looked for places the first two years. Then came the pandemic. That took a toll on the whole hospital. In 2022, it was not profitable at all. The staff started leaving. The doctors first. The only people that stayed were John, me, Wendy (John’s wife and fellow vet tech) and just a few. Then they decided to close it.”

Garcia said in an e-mail the hospital employees were “shocked, stunned and scrambling to get resumes prepared” when Henein decided to buy the hospital back. But it wasn’t simply a matter of taking over a closed business.

“It was not,” Garcia said. “The work and the number of hoops that needed to be (hurdled) was astronomical. But they did it.  To the astonishment of all the employees, their jobs — careers — were saved. The amount of appreciation and gratitude by all the employees was incredible. All thanks to Dr. Henein.”

Now Henein says he and the staff need to get the word out that the hospital is back with an expanded staff and longer hours. Dr. John Chang, who worked with Henein before the hospital went corporate, has returned full-time. Dr. Alexis Rambaud works on Wednesdays and as needed when not at her Palm Desert practice, Paws and Claws Pet Care.

The hospital also has used graduates of the College of the Desert Personal and Career Education program, funded by scholarships funded by Amy’s Purpose, to work as veterinary assistants.

“What I need the people to know is, it’s a privately-owned hospital now,” said Henein. “Our goal is to expand our hours, to get more staff to come in, get more doctors and hopefully expand next door, and do urgent care. We’re accepting urgent care now during day hours. This is what we want the clients to know.”

To help spread the word, Amy’s Purpose will salute the Palm Springs Animal Hospital at a mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 at Willie’s Modern Fare in Rancho Mirage. Henein and Garcia, who headlined a benefit concert for Amy’s Purpose at the Palm Springs Art Museum in September 2022, will be honored for their work for the community.

Amy’s Purpose leaders also will announce at the mixer plans for a large benefit party Oct. 13, 2024, at one of the more historic estates in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs.

For tickets to the mixer, go to or call (760) 831-3090.


Lead photo caption: Dr. Henein at work


Image Sources

  • John Garcia with Baxter: Palm Springs Animal Hospital
  • Dr. Henein: Palm Springs Animal Hospital