Out of the classroom and into the community

AVMF taps veterinary colleges to host events for Our Oath in Action Day
Published on November 19, 2014
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Creating awareness of the important work veterinarians do was the goal of this year’s American Veterinary Medical Foundation Our Oath in Action program, which took place in eight communities this fall. The campaign started in 2013 at six locations throughout the U.S. This year, most events took place on Make a Difference Day, Oct. 25, and were put on primarily by veterinary students, state VMAs, and local veterinarians. Each event was free and open to the public, thanks to $15,000 in funding for each project—except for two repeat events, which didn’t require as much support from the Foundation and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.


For the second year, students and faculty of Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, joined by the Alabama VMA, put on their event Sept. 27 during the 2014 Fall Roundup and Taste of Alabama Agriculture on the university’s campus.
With the AVMF’s Animal Emergency Response trailer on location, volunteers educated the public on how to care for animals during natural disasters and handed out giveaways and information about keeping pets healthy year-round.

“We want people to learn more about how to protect their pets when the unthinkable happens,” said Dr. Julie Gard, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the veterinary college. “During natural disasters or other emergencies, companion animals are also in harm’s way, and it’s important for owners to know what steps to take to ensure their pet’s care.”
The veterinary college’s Canine Performance Sciences program also showcased some of its working detector dogs and puppies to bring attention to the program’s important national security work.


The University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine hosted a multispecies adoption event on Oct. 25 at Russell Field on the university campus. The event featured free veterinary examinations and consults, vaccinations, heartworm testing, and microchipping by veterinary students under the supervision of faculty. Cats, dogs, birds, and miniature horses were on hand to be adopted, thanks to the participation of more than a dozen area shelters and rescue organizations.
In all, about 10 animals were adopted on-site, and many more applications were submitted to rescue organizations that require home visits first. Almost 200 animals received free veterinary services.
Organizers also rounded up dog training and 4-H clubs to present dog tricks and obedience training, an agility course, grooming, and rabbit showmanship, along with other demonstrations. And volunteers collected a good deal of new or gently used pet supplies and blankets, and unopened pet food, to donate to Yolo County Animal Services.

Left to right: ​
UC-Davis veterinary students Michelle Ann, Amanda Irene Dewey, and Margaret Austin demonstrate large animal disaster response as part of their Our Oath in Action event. (Photos courtesy of UC-Davis SVM)

A young attendee listens to a cat’s heartbeat during the University of California-Davis’ Our Oath in Action event.


The event at Michigan State University’s Lansing Center, held Nov. 15, focused on decreasing the number of local homeless animals and increasing awareness of their need for homes.
Families were invited to participate in an interactive scavenger hunt in which they received a booklet as they entered the venue encouraging them to visit interactive stations to discover amusing facts about animals. Stations included homeless-animal Jeopardy, a “spay experience” that involved boxes of spaghetti and water balloons, and a “Guess that breed” game. Prizes and raffles were available for those who participated in the event.
Representatives were on hand from the Michigan State Small Animal Clinic as well as Ingham County Animal Shelter and other rescue groups to further promote awareness of homeless animals and offer animals for adoption. Also, a local AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Team member performed demonstrations on microchipping.


Once again, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine sponsored a community outreach event on Oct. 25 at the Science Complex on campus where dogs could receive $10 microchips and $2 nail trims. In all, about 50 dogs were implanted with chips.
Canine agility and hunting dog demonstrations entertained eventgoers along with a petting zoo. Booths were set up by local veterinary-related groups, including the program’s Large Animal Club and Zoo, Exotic, Wildlife, & Companion Animal Club as well as area shelter and rescue groups.
In addition, area veterinarians guest lectured on pet first aid, the importance of annual examinations, and veterinary dentistry.

Left to right:
First-year veterinary students Miranda Firefly and Carmen Lau of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine volunteer to trim nails for the day. (Courtesy of UNL Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine)

Attendees line up at an AVMF event in Martin, Kentucky, which was dedicated to the support of animal care and well-being in eastern Kentucky. (Courtesy of the AVMF)

New York

Two events took place in the greater Buffalo region. First, a clinic was set up Oct. 25 for those living in facilities of the
Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s northeast area. Approximately 80 pets of the underprivileged residents were seen
by first- and second-year Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine students, who performed wellness examinations under the direction of faculty and local veterinarians, including Cornell veterinary alumni mentors. The event was part of the college’s student-directed course Directing Community Practice.
The other event was open to the public and was also held Oct. 25 at the Bidwell Farmers Market in collaboration with three local veterinary groups: Buffalo Academy of Veterinary Medicine, Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society, and Western New York State VMA. Members of the Cornell veterinary and preveterinary programs along with staff and students of the Medaille College veterinary technology program also took part.


The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine took on an ambitious project by organizing four events on Oct. 25—a spay-neuter clinic, wellness clinic, six mobile wellness teams, and two farmers market community outreach booths in Columbus. The 75 volunteers were mostly OSU veterinary students, faculty, interns, and staff as well as local veterinarians.
Patients came from all over Franklin County as volunteer drivers picked up pets from Columbus Housing Network homes and took them to the clinic for wellness care and spaying or neutering. About two-thirds of CHN residents were formerly homeless. In all, about 50 surgeries and 110 wellness examinations were performed that day.


Oregon State University had three major themes for its two events held on Sept. 20: infectious diseases, food safety, and pet disaster preparedness and response.
The first event took place on the front lawn of the Oregon State College of Veterinary Medicine, which happens to be across the street from the football stadium. Oregon State played a home game that day, so the student chapter of the AVMA took advantage of the opportunity and set up an informational booth a few hours before kickoff. The second event was held at a farmers market.
At each, volunteers handed out pamphlets and talked with visitors about how easily diseases can spread among animals, particularly at dog parks and county fairs. To drive home the point, they gave away stickers saying “I’ve been exposed” with instructions to give other stickers to the next four people the participants encountered.
Regarding food safety, OSU students and faculty focused not only on how to safely handle food at tailgates but also on best practices for backyard farming, which is popular in the Pacific Northwest. The volunteers also handed out pamphlets and refrigerator thermometers.
For pet disaster preparedness and response, visitors could build their own pet first-aid kits and hear from an AVMA VMAT member who spoke about AVMF’s Saving the Whole Family initiative.
Kelsey Scanlan, a third-year Oregon State veterinary student, said her SCAVMA hosted the events because “the veterinary school isn’t well known in the community, and we want to make it a point to get out there and be known, to reach out to Salem and Eugene, and promote the profession. A lot of people feel connected to veterinarians because of their love of animals, but we have so much involvement with public health and protecting families, too, and we want to spread awareness of that.”


A one-health–themed event on Sept. 27 in Martin, Kentucky, was dedicated to the support of animal care and well-being in eastern Kentucky. It also served as the launch and first activity of the Drs. Chandra and Mehandra Varia Fund (see JAVMA, Oct. 1, 2014, page 730).
AVMF staff were on hand with the Foundation’s mobile veterinary clinic. The event included a health fair with area veterinarians and physicians, accompanied by their respective teams, to provide medical care and health education and information on both pets and people.
Cheri Kowal, manager of programs and impact for the AVMF, said people lined up for veterinary care a few hours before the event was scheduled to begin. Many waited for more than five hours to have their pets checked by one of the veterinarian volunteers. By day’s end, more than 300 pets received an examination and vaccinations.
Donated leashes, collars, pet food, and toys were given to owners, and cash contributions went to pay for follow-up
veterinary care for animals in which medical problems were diagnosed during the event.

Local veterinarian Dr. Shawn Tussey and his staff registered the animals, assisted with examinations, and brought the necessary medical equipment and supplies, and he will hold the medical records for the pets treated at the event. In addition, Dr. Tussey, whose family cat, Skittles, died the evening before, adopted a homeless kitten brought to the event.

Calling all veterinarians

For 2015, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation is expanding its Our Oath in Action program. In addition to the types of events it funds now, the Foundation wants to assist individual veterinarians, students, VMAs, and veterinary technicians in planning smaller Our Oath in Action events at their clinics or in their communities.  

The goals of these individual events are to connect members of the veterinary profession with their neighborhoods and to raise awareness of the AVMF and its Veterinary Care Charitable Fund. 

The deadline to submit an application for an Our Oath in Action project is Dec. 31. Application forms are available here.

Notification will be made to selected applicants in March 2015; project leaders will attend an informational training session in April.

For more information, contact Cheri Kowal at ckowalatavma [dot] org () or call 847-285-6691.



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