Archived News

Improving the Lives of Shelter Animals

February 22, 2016

In August 2013, Dr. Chumkee Aziz began her three-year residency in the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the first veterinary school in the world to pioneer a shelter medicine residency. Her position involves travel to animal shelters across the United States to consult on population management, operations and flow, and disease outbreak management. Aziz recently returned from a trip to the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, where she conducted lectures and participated in informal consultations about the Koret School’s plans to create a shelter medicine course and rotation.

“Our training prepares residents to take a leading role in advancing the quality of life of animals in shelters through preventative medicine and disease management,” said Dr. Kate Hurley, director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis. “Our faculty, staff and residents have also helped guide similar shelter medicine programs at other schools across the country — making a national impact.”

With the largest advanced training program of any veterinary hospital, UC Davis is able to offer unique research and publishing opportunities to its residents. The hospital offers 1- to 4-year advanced training programs for veterinarians in 34 specialty disciplines, including various small animal, large animal, diagnostic imaging and laboratory services.

Aziz’s passion for shelter medicine really began as a teenager when her family adopted their first pet, a small terrier/Chihuahua mutt named Peechee, which is Bengali for “tiny.”

“I had never even imagined asking my parents for a pet because I understood it to be nearly taboo in our cultural community,” Aziz said. “But having him in our home brought so much unexpected happiness to the family. The puppy opened all our eyes to a different kind of joy and love that only a pet can offer.”

Years later, when Peechee got sick with cancer, Aziz decided to follow a career in veterinary medicine. She attended Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and traveled to Nepal and Bhutan to do humane stray-dog control. She earned her DVM in 2012 and completed an internship at the ASPCA’s Animal Hospital in New York City.

As part of her residency, Aziz is studying ways that communities can collaborate to end pet homelessness and prevent infectious diseases in shelters, and how shelters can assist owners to keep their pets through outreach, innovative programs and by reuniting lost pets.

“I think of how my family acquired our pet, our initial naivety and our eventual love for the puppy, and how this undeniably shaped my path to becoming a veterinarian, specifically a shelter medicine vet,” Aziz said.