Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine worked with the School of Nursing and the School of Dental Medicine at Penn Vet's annual One Health Dog & Cat vaccination clinic to offer free and low-cost healthcare services to both people and their pets in the West Philadelphia community.
Penn Vet offered free pet vaccinations and low-cost microchips to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, an event that has taken place since 2009. But this year for the first time, pet owners were also able to address their own personal dental and health concerns with assistance from registered nurses and students from the Nursing School and the Dental School.
The collaborative event, which took place at Penn's Ryan Veterinary Hospital, was organized by the Shelter Medicine Club, a student organization at Penn Vet which works to improve animal welfare in the Philadelphia community through various programs and events.
The Shelter Medicine Club Events Chair and second-year Penn Vet student Kelsey Shampoe said that the clinic is just as beneficial to vet students as it is to patients. Shampoe said that cases she sees during her clinical rounds at Penn Vet are specialized and not necessarily reflective of routine veterinary issues that are common in this free clinic.
“We see a very different level of medicine at [Penn Vet], so you kind of lose touch with that day-to-day, on the ground medicine,” Shampoe said. “And that’s what a lot of medicine is and that’s what we’re going to be doing when we graduate.”
Nursing graduate student Aaron Huntley, who worked at the event, added the condition of a pet can also be an indicator for the pet owners' health.
“If you meet an animal that is underfed or not well cared for, maybe it represents that family is also not being cared for or doesn’t have enough food,” Huntley said. “It’s not just the animals in isolation.”
Carmen Sanchez, a West Philadelphia resident who attended this year's clinic said that the event has helped her care for her two dogs for the past few years.
“[The clinic] is very important, because the dogs are vaccinated—you don’t have to worry about the dogs running around without vaccinations,” Sanchez said. “It’s an excellent service.”
Penn Vet Professor of Surgery David Holt said pet vaccinations are key in preventing pandemics among animal populations. Holt added that he has witnessed horrific consequences of contagious diseases such as parvovirus and rabies throughout his career.
"These are all preventable diseases that vaccines cover," Holt said, adding that pet owners are legally responsible to vaccinate their pets in Pennsylvania.
“Pet ownership is a responsibility, not just a right,” Holt said. “And one of the things that we’d like to do here is to encourage responsible pet ownership, including vaccination.”
Sarah Rivera, a second-year Penn Vet student and member of Shelter Medicine Club, said she hopes the clinic will be able to offer even more services in future years such as flu vaccinations and vision screening.
Rivera added the medical schools at Penn often feel isolated and hopes the Vet School can collaborate more with the Nursing School, the Dental School, and Penn Medicine.
“Having all of these health professionals together increases the knowledge of all the professionals,” she said. “It’s good to have these conversations.”