The Next Generation in Shelter Medicine

Josephine TempongkoNews, Uncategorized10 Comments


Julia Summer Camp

Julia volunteering as a Summer Camp Counselor in 2014

Julia has been an animal lover her entire life, but it wasn’t until she started volunteering at Humane Society Silicon Valley as a high school student that she really started to consider a career in shelter medicine. Today Julia is a DVM student at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and works at HSSV as an on-call Veterinary Assistant. In the personal statement for her veterinary school application she wrote: “Just as Humane Society Silicon Valley provides refuge to thousands of animals each year, it has also become my refuge and a pivotal driving force in my journey to pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.”

Julia with Greyson

Julia as a Veterinary Assistant with shelter cat Greyson

Julia’s story is a glimmer of hope. Nationwide, there is a growing shortage of veterinary professionals – there are simply not enough people to care for all the pets. This is doubly problematic in the world of shelter medicine; it can make it difficult to find qualified staff, and also results in a general lack of affordable, available veterinary care – one of the top reasons why people surrender their animals to shelters like HSSV.

Julia with Puppies

Julia with some adorable shelter puppies

This summer, Julia has a new role – serving as a mentor for HSSV’s pilot LEAP Internship program. Initiated by HSSV Chief of Shelter Medicine Dr. Cristie Kamiya earlier this year in partnership with Silicon Valley Career and Technical Education and funded by the Severns Family Foundation, the LEAP (which stands for ‘Learn, Engage and Prepare’) Internship program is a paid 12-week internship that provides recent high school graduates with an interest in veterinary medicine and animal welfare the opportunity to work in various departments at HSSV to learn all aspects of animal sheltering.

Interns and Veterinarians

Kyra, Julia and Clare listen as Dr. Campbell gives a presentation.

“I was extremely excited to act as a mentor!” Julia writes. “I have been fortunate to have had many amazing mentors throughout my time at HSSV, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to introduce others to the world of shelter medicine.” The program welcomed its first two interns this summer – Kyra, and Clare.

Kyra and Clare

LEAP Interns Kyra and Clare attend a Medical team meeting

“Traditionally veterinary medicine is a very exclusive industry and the barriers to entry are very high,” says Dr. Kamiya. “The intention around programs like LEAP is to break down these barriers to expose shelter medicine as a viable career choice for those who may have an interest. This is one path of hopefully many HSSV will develop to create more entry into veterinary and shelter medicine.”

“Through the LEAP Internship Program, Kyra and Clare have been able to work alongside a team of veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, and veterinary animal care associates to provide high quality, compassionate care for the animals that enter the shelter.” Julia writes.

Kyra and Matt

LEAP Intern Kyra assists Animal Transport Assistant Matthew with a Rescue Run

“Kyra and Clare have had hands-on experiences assisting the Medical team with pre-operative and post-operative patient care, joined our Rescue team on transporting animals from our partner shelters, and worked alongside our Animal Care and Enrichment teams in maintaining welcoming animal spaces. The LEAP interns have also learned about high-quality, high-volume spay and neuter, microscopy, veterinary behavioral medicine, infectious diseases, and much more through guided sessions led by our veterinarians and members of our Medical team.”

Kyra with Puppy

LEAP Intern Kyra holds a puppy during a Rescue Run

“I have earned the most confidence so far in my internship experience by asking questions and not being afraid to do something if I know how to do it.” LEAP Intern Kyra writes about her experience at HSSV. “The most comforting thing to hear from the vet assistants was ‘If you know how to do it, do it! And if you don’t and lack confidence, ask questions, and I will help you.’”

Clare with microscope

LEAP Intern Clare examines a specimen under a microscope

Increasing the talent pipeline in shelter medicine through programs like LEAP ultimately provides shelters and rescues with their most valuable resource – qualified staff who are trained and ready to meet the unique needs of the shelter environment. “I feel that I have made a lot of progress toward my goals of getting hands-on experience with animals.” LEAP Intern Clare writes. “I have grown more confident in my skills and have expanded my knowledge of not only shelter medicine but all aspects of working in an animal shelter.”

Kyra Puppy Exam

LEAP Intern Kyra assists with a puppy exam

“Kyra and Clare were quick learners and so eager to be here and learn new things,” Dr. Kamiya says. “It was a perfect match culturally and such a great experience. Kyra has expressed interest in applying for a Veterinary Assistant position here at HSSV, so we’re very excited. Her plan is still to go to veterinary technician school and I think she could probably be a veterinarian if she really wanted to.”

Dr. Kamiya also expressed great pride in Julia. “To be able to see all of Julia’s learning at HSSV and how she’s taken that and now become a mentor and a teacher to these new students has been the highlight of my career. I give much of the credit for the success of the program to Julia’s hard work.”

Kyra and Clare Rescue Run

Kyra and Clare assist with a Rescue Run

While the pilot has had many successes, Dr. Kamiya says to expect different iterations moving forward as the program evolves. “Shelter medicine is a pretty young industry so we’re constantly learning and trying new things, and changing things based on what we learn and what our community needs. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to not only conceive of [the LEAP Internship program], but to have the resources and backing to actually bring it into fruition – to create the program and learn from it. That’s rare in a shelter setting.”

“One of the things I love about being at HSSV is that we have the privilege to be able to experiment and find new solutions that are not standard in the industry – I think that’s the part that’s the most fun for me.” Dr. Kamiya says. “We’re changing the game by thinking outside the box to find non-traditional solutions. That’s sort of been our MO at HSSV – we have this crazy idea – let’s try it.”

There is a growing nationwide shortage of veterinary professionals. HSSV is changing the game by training the next generation in Shelter Medicine.

10 Comments on “The Next Generation in Shelter Medicine”

  1. This is sooo great! And the fact that the internship is paid means that the organizers understand how things should be done.

  2. Clare and Kyra have been a wonderful addition to the team in the Medical Center. As a volunteer, I have seen how much they’ve learned and contributed. What a great opportunity!

  3. Once again HSSV supported their staffs innovative thinking outside the box. This support has and will make a positive lifelong footprint in veterinary and shelter medicine. Great job, soon to be Dr Julia, Dr Kamiya, and all the rest of the HSSV staff. Julia is portraying her art work on Greyson that she creates for our animals in her spare time. Thank you Julia for the decorations. We loved receiving a new one each week when Greyson had his splint changed.

    1. Hi Christina – since this is a pilot program, the application process will likely evolve moving forward. Please stay tuned for updates!

  4. You should add the option to share to your articles. Sharing such informational and inspirational stories with others will increase awareness of the great work HSSV is doing and the response to the many needs of the shelter. Is this article on Facebook? I believe sharing this and other articles will help reach many young people that may be interested in working with animal care but just don’t know how to inquire about possible opportunities and about the existence of a paid internship. 😀

    1. Hi Skye – since this is a pilot program, the application process will likely evolve moving forward. Please stay tuned for updates!

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