PORTLAND, Ore. – A new partnership between the Oregon Humane Society and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University has just begun, as the first of 50 students are undergoing a series of two-week rotations at the Portland facility.
For OSU veterinary students, the partnership means exposure to a wide variety of the kinds of clinical cases among dogs, cats and other pets that they will encounter if they enter private practice.
And with student help, the Oregon Humane Society will increase its capacity for animal care – and adoptions – by 20 percent.
“This is the ultimate win-win situation for the students and the animals,” said Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society. “We’ll keep the OSU students plenty busy with everything from diagnoses to surgery, and that additional capacity will allow us to reach out across the region and bring in animals from other shelters, increasing the number of pet adoptions in Oregon.”
The Oregon Humane Society recently completed a major expansion of its facility adding an animal medical and learning center that includes examination and surgery rooms, expanded digital imaging capabilities, an animal behavior program and additional capacity for standard and critical care.
Upstairs are dormitory rooms where the OSU students will stay during their two-week rotations. The proximity is exceptionally convenient, says Kris Otteman, director of shelter medicine for the Oregon Humane Society, but also means the students may be on call day and night.
“We’ll put them to work,” said Otteman with a laugh. “And this is exactly the kind of experience that will make students into better professionals – learning about high-volume, high-quality medicine and surgery in a state-of-the-art facility.”
Otteman is one of four veterinary doctors at the Oregon Humane Society’s facility, which is located on N.E. Columbia Boulevard in Portland. An OSU graduate, she will help supervise the vet med students until the university hires a new faculty member who will be housed in the Portland facility full-time. The new OSU faculty doctor will partner with Otteman to provide student supervision and medical care for pets owned by the OHS.
That is what makes the OSU partnership with the Oregon Humane Society unique, Harmon says. Most of the 27 veterinary medicine schools in the United States have partnerships with veterinary practices and animal shelters. But few require every student to go through a rotation with a facility like the Oregon Humane Society, and have a full-time faculty member on location.
“There is a huge nationwide shortage of vets,” Harmon said, “and the training the students will receive here in primary care – from diagnosis, to treatment, to consultation – will be applicable anywhere, even if they go into equine practice.”
During the two-week rotation, the students will perform spay and neuter surgeries on dogs and cats, treat abscesses and ear infections, work with in-house diagnostics including lab and X-ray, as well as perform other surgeries as needed. They also will learn wound repair, tumor removal, dental cleaning and care for numerous other ailments.
“The most important aspect,” Harmon said, “is that all of the surgeries are in the best interest of the pet.”
The rotation is one of several that students go through before earning their doctor of veterinary medicine degrees, according to Susan Tornquist, the associate dean for students in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Students spend most of their first three years getting the background and experience for the rotations they will do in their fourth year,” Tornquist said. “Then they go through surgical rotations, large animal and small animal rotations, rural rotations, four weeks of preceptorship where they may work at private practice, zoos or research facilities.
“In each case, they are supervised by a veterinarian and keep a journal of their experiences,” Tornquist added.
Ben Osborne and Roberta Porter are the first two OSU students to go through the Oregon Humane Society rotation. They have been joined by Kirsten Mueller and Will Spanbock, both veterinary medicine students at Ross University on St. Kitts in the Caribbean, which along with St. Georges University annually sends students to OSU for the clinical part of their education.
Tornquist said the partnership with the Oregon Humane Society will give the OSU students a high quality experience.
“They are not going up there to do shelter medicine, but more primary care – the kinds of cases that will walk in the door if they become general practitioners,” Tornquist said. “We have worked with local veterinarians throughout the area, but the sheer volume of cases at the Humane Society will give the students an unparalleled experience.”