Kristina Raum, Caitlin McLagan, Jared Sharp, Kristen Hinatsu, and Jake Tidwell volunteered their Saturday to help homeless and low-income pets.
Every year at O’Bryant Park Square in the heart of downtown Portland, the students of Oregon Health & Science University hold a Health Care Equity Fair. Volunteers from a variety of health care professions donate their time to provide free health screenings, dental work, chronic illness education, and other services to homeless and low-income community members. For the past three years, CVM students from the Shelter Medicine Club have also volunteered their time to offer health screening and basic care to low-income and homeless pets.
On Sunday, April 6th, a team of five third-year vet students (Caitlin McLagan, Kristen Hinatsu, Jared Sharp, Jake Tidwell, and Kristina Raum), joined Portland veterinarian Robin Sechrest to offer physical exams and provide vaccines like distemper/parvo for dogs, upper respiratory for cats, and rabies for both. They also performed nail trims and ear cleaning, and gave basic health care advice.
“The owners were phenomenal and clearly had the interests of their companions at heart,” says McLagan. “Most animals were in good condition, but we did see a number of skin conditions. There was a lot of flea allergy dermatitis. Fortunately we were able to send clients home with several months’ worth of flea/tick treatment for their pets.”
The team treated 23 animals, mostly dogs and a few cats. “As veterinary students, this type of experience is a hugely gratifying aspect of our education and profession,” says McLagan. “Not only does working out in the community give us valuable perspective about the challenges faced by many people (and animals) in our society, but it gives us the opportunity to hone crucial skills needed in our day-to-day lives as veterinarians. These include communication, medical and technical competency, and flexibility.”
One goal of the Shelter Medicine Club is to provide veterinary preventive medicine to community members that may not otherwise be able to access it. This supports the college mission to promote the human-animal bond, protect public health, and let the world know that veterinarians are caring and empathic professionals. “Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback of event organizers, health care students, volunteers, and clients, we succeeded in representing our profession as such,” says McLagan.
Although they had to drive to Portland and cope with the crazy downtown parking situation, the Shelter Medicine Club volunteers enjoyed their day in the city. “I most enjoyed the ability to get out of the classroom and lab, and apply veterinary medicine to real world situations where the benefits of what we do are acutely noticeable,” says McLagan. “Hearing clients talk about their beloved pet has a particularly strong impact when they tell you this pet is literally all they have of value to them in the world. It’s a real privilege and an honour to be able to assist people to protect their pet’s health and well being as best we can.”