College offers new undergraduate
course focusing on the dog

By Sarah Carey

Dr. Courtney, Sally and Dr. Pat Larkin

Dr. Charles Courtney, Sally O'Connell, holding her grand champion Siberian Husky, Mileka's Belle Starr, and Dr. Patrick Larkin.

From the dog’s role in society to what constitutes proper pet grooming to what to expect in careers including veterinary technology and veterinary medicine, a new online course offered this fall through the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine targets undergraduate students in a comprehensive educational outreach effort that may be the first of its kind in the United States.

The course, titled simply “The Dog,” is aimed at undergraduate students planning careers in veterinary fields, and also touches on such topics as evolution, domestication, anatomy and physiology, behavior and dog health.

Organizers of the course intend to draw participants from all over the country and beyond. Several students from Canada have already signed up.

“Besides introducing them to different aspects of dogs in society, we will include topics that will enable these students to be well-rounded when they finish their veterinary studies,” said Dr. Patrick Larkin, the course’s instructor.

“Many students who are entering veterinary school have never seen a dog show, but some of their future clients will professionally show dogs,” Larkin said. “For example, professional groomers don’t like it when veterinarians shave their dogs because that means their clients can’t show them for a long time. That particular segment of the course will familiarize students with the nuances of the dog show world.”

For added value, Larkin plans to include interviews with faculty members who will share information about why they chose their particular career path and offering advice to students about the profession.

“The concept is similar to a class textbook with information appended to each chapter, allowing for a deeper exploration of information in the field,” he said.

Also an adjunct professor of biology at Santa Fe college in Gainesville, Larkin received his doctorate at UF, and joined the college’s faculty in June and has since spent most of his time organizing the new course.  That has meant lining up lectures, designing the infrastructure, uploading content and obtaining all of the necessary permissions within the college and UF to move forward.

“It’s been a lot of fun for me, just interacting with different faculty members and getting them excited,” Larkin said. “Dr. (Charlie) Courtney has been supportive all along to keep things moving and it’s been fun working with a lot of different faculty.”

Courtney, the college’s associate dean of research and graduate studies, first conceived of the course and has been instrumental in its creation. Courtney’s administrative assistant, Sally O’Connell, is active in the dog show circuit and helped arrange to film a dog show in Ocala for the class.

Dr. Natalie Isaza, director of the shelter medicine clerkship at UF, provided an interview about what’s involved in shelter medicine and why she chose to focus her career in that area; Dr. Jeremy Delcambre gave an overview of animal science and even the chairman of the college’s department of physiological sciences, Dr. Paul Cooke, will provide lectures relating to anatomy, the circulatory system and endocrinology.

“He’s a really busy guy, but he saw the importance of the class and recruited a few of his faculty to also help,” Larkin said. “From deans to department chairs to even some students who recently graduated, there’s a lot of expertise at the UF veterinary school and the pool of knowledge we have to tap into here is really impressive.”

The first course will consist of both UF students and non-UF students.  Larkin quickly filled the UF slots, even without widely advertising. The advertising he has done has been through contacts with pre-veterinary clubs at different schools. Larkin and a few other UF representatives also attended a national pre-veterinary club meeting in North Carolina to help get the word out.

The registration deadline is Aug. 20. For more information about the course, visit or email Larkin at



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April 2012

Open House draws huge crowd to college

People of all ages, from aspiring veterinarians to the merely curious, came from Gainesville and beyond to learn more about the veterinary profession and UF at this year’s Open House.

College offers new undergraduate course focusing on the dog

A new online course being offered this fall to undergraduate students will look exclusively at dogs and will target pre-veterinary and veterinary technology students.

Mergia named UF Research Foundation Professor

Dr. Ayalew Mergia, a biomedical researcher at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a UF Research Foundation professorship.

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