Tufts to open low-cost veterinary clinic at technical high school


North Grafton, Mass. - Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine plans to open a low-cost primary care clinic for under-served pets around Worcester.

NORTH GRAFTON, MASS. — Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine plans to open a low-cost primary care clinic for under-served pets around Worcester.

The clinic will be located within Worcester Technical High School's (WTHS) campus and will pair fourth-year veterinary students in the Cummings School's DVM program with students in the veterinary assistant program at WTHS.

Tufts officials believe the partnership could be the first time a veterinary school has paired with a high-school clinic venue for education and outreach.

Construction already began on the new clinic space, which is expected to open in late spring 2012.

"This collaboration represents a different way of looking at service to the community, care for needy animals, and educating compassionate, knowledgeable veterinary professionals," says Tufts' Dean Deborah T. Kochevar. "Animals and their owners, and students from both schools, win with this model."

To take advantage of the clinic's services, clients will have to provide proof of government assistance or residency at the Worcester Housing Authority. The clinic will focus on serving only individuals who do not have the means to bring their pets to another clinic in the area, according to Tufts. Once approved for service, pet owners will have access to vaccinations, wellness visits and simple surgeries at significantly reduced fees—just enough to cover the clinic's costs, the school adds.

Startup and operation costs for the clinic have been offset by $225,000 in donations from two foundations—the Manton Foundation and the Caccomo Family Foundation—and an anonymous donor, as well as an $85,000 equipment grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, according to Tufts. About $9,000 in equipment for the clinic was donated by Worcester-based LABEX of MA. Cummings School and WTHS personnel also are soliciting monetary and material donations from some Worcester-area and veterinary industry corporations.

In addition to providing hands-on experience for both groups of students and pet owners from disadvantaged backgrounds, the clinic is likely to create a public health benefit by increasing the number of pets who are vaccinated against communicable diseases like rabies, as well as providing surveillance data on outbreaks of animal disease that otherwise might go undetected.

Associate Professor Elizabeth A. Rozanski, DVM, and Professor John E. Rush, DVM, of Tufts' Department of Clinical Sciences first conceptualized the idea of the clinic to give veterinary students more primary care clinical experience while serving needy animals. Rozanski, who serves on the advisory board for WTHS' veterinary assistant program, identified the high school as a logical fit for a low-cost clinic, and the idea was embraced by the high school's leadership, according to Tufts.

The clinic will be overseen by recently hired clinic director Gregory M. Wolfus, DVM, a 1998 graduate of the Cummings School. Students in the technical high school's veterinary assistant program will take increasingly larger roles as they progress through the four-year curriculum, learning safety and hygiene protocols, scheduling appointments, handling transactions, helping to take and supervise the younger students in the program.

In a two-week rotation, veterinary students would lead clinical care for the pets brought to the clinic, performing examinations and diagnostics using the on-site radiology and laboratory equipment and creating a clinical treatment plan in consultation with Wolfus.

The Worcester clinic will allow Tufts' students to gain more experience with routine care and engage in direct communication with clients about financial and medical matters, Wolfus says.

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