Veterinarian with hearing loss participating in online shelter medicine course
By Sarah Carey
Dr. Candie Corriher is deaf and proud — sometimes too proud, she admits. Raised by her parents to be independent, and stubborn by nature, Corriher, one of the first group of enrollees in a new graduate online certificate course offered by UF’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, has weathered her share of challenges over the years.
“I guess I felt like I had something to prove, that I could do just fine on my own,” said Corriher, a 1995 graduate of North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine who now works as the interim lead veterinarian at the Cat Adoption Team, a cats-only animal shelter in Sherwood, Ore.
She tried transcribing lectures during one semester of veterinary school in the mid-90s, but found the turnaround time was too long after sitting in class all day. She didn’t get much out of attending classes and relied on extra reading outside of class and notes copied from classmates.
“I don’t think anyone ever fully understood what things were like for me when I was in vet school, not even my closest friends and family members,” Corriher said. “Back then, we did not have the technology we have today. Real time captioning was not available the way it is now, especially remotely. But even if it had been available, I probably would not have wanted it due to my stubbornness and my desire to prove that I could do whatever I put my mind to without special assistance.”
But thanks to Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses, a group she cofounded and currently serves as president of, Corriher eventually learned it was OK to ask for help.
“I finally started asking for real-time captioning for veterinary continuing education without feeling bad about it,” Corriher said. “And I have benefited so much from having lectures captured for me at veterinary meetings. If I could go back to veterinary school all over again in this day and age, I would want captioning for all of my courses and I would not feel bad about asking for it.”
Corriher said she is especially grateful to Dr. Terry Spencer, director of distance learning for the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, to UF’s Disability Resource Center and others who worked behind the scenes to make captioning available to her for the new graduate certificate course.
“In addition to providing captioning for the presentations and videos that are a part of this course, I have benefited from having the instructor voice my Power Point presentations for me based on transcripts I provided to her,” Corriher said. “I cannot say enough good things about this course, the online program, the instructors, the Disability Resource Center of the University of Florida.”
Spencer said she first interacted with Corriher through the Association of Shelter Veterinarians listserve, well before Corriher enrolled in UF’s online course. Spencer had invited ASV members to use a digital tool known as a “Voice Thread” to participate in a virtual interview about their experiences in shelter medicine. The university’s e-learning office describes VoiceThread as an interactive collaboration and sharing tool that enables users to add images, documents and videos, and to which other users can add voice, text and audio files, or video comments. An instructor typically creates the initial narrative slides, and students then can add comments at any point in the narration.
“Dr. Corriher was wary that VoiceThread would not be compliant for veterinarians like herself, and expressed her concerns to me,” Spencer said. “After an exchange of emails, she agreed to test it. Her virtual interview now resides on a VoiceThread embedded in the same online course in which she is currently enrolled. Dr. Corriher is a great addition to the virtual discussions students regularly hold within the course, and I am delighted that online learning is so well adapted to her learning needs. ”
One of only four course enrollees to receive scholarships from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to participate, Corriher says she already has learned so much, and has shared information regularly with the rest of her shelter staff.
“I have used my new knowledge to make improvements in the shelter’s medical protocols and even shared one of my recent course presentations with representatives of other organizations that are a part of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland,” Corriher said. “This is a truly wonderful program that allows veterinarians from other states and all over the world to improve on their knowledge of shelter medicine, without having to be in Florida to be able to take the course.”
Corriher’s interest in small animals was an evolution from her initial intent to work only with horses. After veterinary school, Corriher completed an internship in large animal medicine at the University of Tennessee, then worked for a year in a research position at The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Due to a confluence of factors, she came to believe her future was not in equine medicine or in research.
“I realized that I belong in a clinic, and migrated over to small animals in 2000,” she said. Corriher has now worked in small animal private practice in multiple states for more than 12 years, and has decided since working at her present job at the Cat Adoption Team that shelter medicine truly is her niche.
“It’s a perfect fit for me,” she said. “My shelter staff has gotten to understand my speech very well, and I have learned to lipread all of them very well, too, whereas communicating with new clients on a daily basis in private practice wasn’t always easy.”
Corriher is delighted to have Dr. Julie Levy, the Maddie’s Professor of Shelter Medicine at UF, as her teacher once again. Levy was a resident in small animal medicine at NC State when Corriher was a student.
Corriher also has fond memories of several people she has gotten to know over the years with UF ties; Dr. Eleanor Green, former chair of the college’s department of large animal clinical sciences and a former administrator at UT, created the internship Corriher performed there; Drs. Rob MacKay and Chris Sanchez worked with Corriher during a rotation she performed at UF during her internship at Tennessee. She also worked with Dr. Dana Zimmel, chief of staff of the UF Veterinary Hospitals, for a few months while performing an externship at NC State while Zimmel was an equine medicine intern there.
“I can’t help but look back and wonder what might have been if I had not been such a stubborn vet student with something to prove, and if I had had the kind of technology and support with special accommodations as a student that I am getting now as an online student at the UF,” Corriher said, adding that she would recommend the course to everyone.
“It is perfect for those of us who are fulltime veterinarians or students who want to expand on our knowledge of shelter medicine,” she said. “Everything I am learning in this course is helping me be a better interim lead veterinarian and to take our standards of care to the next level.”