Clerkship now the Veterinary Community Outreach Program

Dr. Natalie Isaza, left, with Pepin and ACUS investigator

Dr. Natalie Isaza, left, with Pepin  (later renamed Mercy) and ACUS investigator Jessica Lauginiger. Mercy, a victim of animal cruelty, visited UF in September for an evaluation of her head wounds.  She recovered from her injuries and has since been adopted. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

The name of the game is change, so in that vein the Merial Shelter Animal Medicine Clerkship now has a new moniker: The Veterinary Community Outreach Program.

“This is an exciting milestone for our program, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in August,” said Dr. Natalie Isaza, a clinical associate professor and founder/director of the program. “Our original and successful approach to developing the clinical skills of veterinary students through service learning and community outreach has since been replicated at many other colleges of veterinary medicine across the country.”

Isaza said the name change better reflects the program’s role today in the college and the animal welfare community, and helps distinguish it from other community programs.

“Although we have a new name, the breadth and quality of our services will remain the same,” she said.

Isaza and Dr. Brian DiGangi have been the faculty members associated with the program for several years, but now their team is three strong with the addition of  Dr. Kelly Harrison to the faculty.

“Dr. Harrison has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team,” Isaza said.

The program is supported with funds from PetSmart Charities, Merial and PetCo Foundation.

“Their generous grants enabled our students to perform 1658 pediatric and 93 adult bully sterilization surgeries at no cost to our rescue group partners in the 2012-2013 year,” she said. “Our busy service is also the largest provider of shelter dog heartworm treatments in the community, with a total of 92 treatments performed in 2013.  With the addition of 50 treatments and procedures performed in 2013, the HAARTS program has saved more than 1,000 lives since its inception in 2009.

“Given that our program relies solely on private donations to achieve its goals, this is quite a milestone,” Isaza said. She added that students in the program have logged more than 300 hours of service-learning through the group’s work with local sheltering agencies and the St. Francis Pet Care Clinic over the past year.


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