Supervised, Self-Teaching of Veterinary Students through Shelter Animal Surgical and Dental Services

Supervised, Self-Teaching of Veterinary Students through Shelter Animal Surgical and Dental Services

Marina McConkey, DVM; Instructor, Clinical Sciences

Brian Collins, DVM; Lecturer, Clinical Sciences

As one of the foremost veterinary teaching hospitals in the nation, it is our responsibility to provide the best possible training for our students. The Cornell University Hospital for Animals enjoys an esteemed reputation as a tertiary care facility that attracts complicated cases, offering students a one of a kind clinical experience and broadening their knowledge base to a wide array of complex veterinary cases. However, as such, students may have a limited opportunity to assume a principal care role for the types of cases they will encounter on a weekly basis in primary practice. Teaching veterinary surgical skills is inherently difficult; Laboratories and simulation labs are expensive, time consuming, and do not completely mimic the real world, while lecture based learning alone can’t fully prepare new graduates for the hands on procedures they will be expected to perform.

Cornell has a successful existing partnership with several community shelters and at each of these shelters there are animals that suffer treatable diseases. Many of these conditions are the diseases and disorders that would be encountered by veterinarians in primary practice. By harnessing this population of patients, we can allow students to have supervised training in primary care procedures while simultaneously alleviating animal suffering and making these animals more adoptable, without sacrificing the success of our elite tertiary referral center.

This grant proposes that we strengthen our existing shelter relationships to offer primary care treatments for patients that may not otherwise have access to this level of care and therefore suffer a poorer quality of life. Under the close supervision of clinicians on the surgery, dentistry, anesthesia and community practice services, as well as other support services on occasion, students will provide primary medical care for these unowned animals. Students will learn the skills necessary to provide efficient, effective, and safe dental procedures, as well as the basic surgical skills necessary to treat a variety of surgical ailments. Students will learn procedures by performing them, rather than by watching, and will also learn how to perform state-of-the art pain management procedures including nerve blocks and epidurals to alleviate pain associated with surgical and dental procedures. Students will learn hands on skills to help prepare them for employment after graduation while shelter animals will get another lease on life.