College of Veterinary Medicine's Shelter Medicine Mobile Surgery Unit brings veterinary services to area animal shelters

K-State Communications and Marketing

Starting May 11, fourth-year veterinary students at Kansas State University will man the College of Veterinary Medicine's new Shelter Medicine Mobile Surgery Unit, bringing veterinary care to area animal shelters. (Photo: K-State Communications and Marketing)

Veterinary medicine students at Kansas State University will soon be going mobile. On April 13, the College of Veterinary Medicine dedicated its new Shelter Medicine Mobile Surgery Unit.

The clinical sciences department recently purchased the mobile surgical unit to allow students and faculty to perform on-site, pre-adoption spay/neuter procedures and provide medical care to enhance the health and adoptability of shelter animals. Agreements have already been established to provide services for nonprofit and municipal animal shelter organizations in Manhattan, Junction City, Ottawa, Emporia, Topeka, Lawrence, Salina and Clay Center. The service to regional shelters will begin May 11.

The mobile surgical unit complements the college's shelter medicine program, which is a service-learning course for fourth-year veterinary students to get hands-on experience under the supervision of a shelter medicine faculty member. Most shelter organizations in Kansas do not have a veterinarian on staff nor do they have on-site surgical facilities.

The success of the program is dependent on developing strong and sustainable relationships with regional shelters. Sixty-six students from the graduating class of 2016 — fourth-year students — are scheduled to complete this elective two-week rotation.

"We believe students will develop a strong appreciation for the magnitude of the homeless pet population and will be prepared to volunteer and advocate for shelters in their communities after graduation," said Brad Crauer, an assistant clinical professor who was recently hired to direct the shelter medicine program. In addition to individual animal care, Crauer also provides consultation services for regional shelters on infectious disease control and behavior assessment.

The Shelter Medicine Mobile Surgery Unit was made possible by a donation from Cheryl Mellenthin in honor of two people who were important to the College of Veterinary Medicine family: the late Chris Gruber, director of development, and Mellenthin's late husband, Mark Chapman.

"We are deeply humbled by the passion and amazing commitment to animal health and shelter medicine education expressed through Cheryl's gift," said Ralph C. Richardson, dean of the college. "Her generosity helps provides long-term sustainability to our shelter medicine program plus much-needed scholarship support. This also helps us to further our mission of outreach and service to the state of Kansas. The benefits will be far-reaching and we can't thank Cheryl enough."

Students are projected to perform 2,800 to 3,500 spay/neuter procedures in the first year. Communities participating in the shelter medicine program are encouraged to look for a large purple vehicle that says, "Future Vets Helping Future Pets."

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