An education award and a new hospital room designed to reassure and comfort are focusing increased attention on the contemporary practice of veterinary medicine.
The UC Davis Pet Loss Support Hotline,a program of the School of Veterinary Medicine, has been honored as the recipient of the 1997 Merck AgVet Creativity in Teaching Award.
"Recognition of the importance of the human-animal bond in society is growing," asserts Bradford Smith, director of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Davis. The Pet Loss Support Hotline, created in 1989, is the first organization developed to address the grief and emotional upset felt by individuals when they lose their pets. Student volunteers attend training sessions, listen to callers, and offer practical advice in coping with the loss of a pet.
The Hotline also serves as an academic tool in the training of veterinarians, especially those entering private practice. Bonnie Mader, coordinator of the program, explains, "The Hotline has demonstrated its effectiveness in teaching veterinary students practical communication skills, enabling future practitioners to provide confident care for clients in emotionally difficult situations with their beloved pets."
The award comes at a time when the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital offers a new opportunity to build on talents learned via the Hotline and apply them in person, too. Smith states, "On February 27 , thanks to a generous donation from a long-time friend of the School, the Teaching Hospital is dedicating a new room which will provide a quiet, pleasant environment in which veterinarians and animal owners can discuss subjects such as the diagnosis of a terminal illness, euthanasia (putting an animal to sleep), and grieving. Veterinary students will learn to deal with these issues face to face as well as over the telephone."
The new setting has been incorporated within the existing hospital for ease of access from clinics and will be furnished with warm woods and understated lighting to provide a calming setting for clients and their pets.
To date, eight other U.S. veterinary schools are modeling support groups on the Hotline framework; recently, inquiries have begun to arrive from other countries wishing to develop similar programs in Switzerland, Japan, and elsewhere.
UC Davis is one of 27 schools of veterinary medicine throughout the U.S. which submitted proposals for the teaching award. Merck AgVet, now known as Merial Limited, is the veterinary services component of an international company created by the merger of Merck and Rhone-Poulenc.
The Pet Loss Support Hotline Web site address is www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/petloss/index.htm
Media Contact for room dedication: Bonnie Mader, 530/752-3602