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Externships give veterinary students opportunity to experience shelter medicine across the US

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


— A little dog has given veterinary students at Kansas State University an opportunity to learn about shelter medicine from New York to California, all thanks to a grant from Maddie's Fund.

The grant, for the 2013-2014 school year, is to the clinical sciences department in the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"For students completing externships at high-quality, large-scale, adoption-guarantee shelter environments, there are many benefits," said Bonnie Rush, head of the clinical sciences department. "Externship training at a Maddie's Fund-approved site creates opportunities for students to learn about community-based, nonprofit organizations, small animal population medicine, and individual care for special needs animals. Students submit a brief essay outlining their understanding of an adoption-guarantee shelter program and their career goals in shelter medicine. If selected, the students complete their externships at an approved shelter."

Maddie's Fund was endowed by Dave and Cheryl Duffield in Pleasanton, California, after the family's beloved miniature schnauzer died in 1997. Their goal was to provide support for animal welfare and no-kill shelters through grant giving, hands-on animal care, and research and education.

Fourth-year veterinary medicine student Allison Nelson, Prairie Village, completed her externship at the New York ASPCA in December 2013. Three third-year students, Caitlin Sullivan, San Diego, Calif.; Bailey Davis, Petersburg, Ill.; and Tracey Stonebridge, Flushing, N.Y.; will complete their externships at different shelters in California in the next few months.

"My externship experience at the ASPCA has shown me that a key to no-kill shelters' success is community support," Nelson said. "Each community must focus on which issues are contributing to the euthanasia rates in their area. Shelter euthanasia rates can be decreased by addressing the issue before it starts with spay neuter programs or allowing animals that previously were viewed as unadoptable a chance for adoption with behavioral intervention."

The Maddie's Fund grant will help Sullivan complete her externship at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

"The funds are helpful in assisting us with travel and living expenses during the two-week off-campus experience," she said. "I was interested in completing an elective rotation in shelter medicine to gain experience with spays and neuters and to understand the intricacies and challenges of practicing veterinary medicine in a shelter setting."

Davis said, "One of my best experiences during my undergraduate degree was getting the opportunity to intern alongside a shelter veterinarian. Shelter medicine is often an overlooked area of veterinary medicine and few veterinary schools incorporate it into the curriculum at all. I had planned on pursuing an externship at a shelter my fourth year, so I was very excited to learn about Maddie's Fund. I normally would not be able to travel due to the financial limitations of flying and finding a place to stay. I am looking forward to completing my shelter externship at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, Calif."

"I am grateful for the opportunity that this scholarship has afforded me to expand my veterinary knowledge by completing an externship,” said Stonebridge, who will be at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation. "The skills and knowledge that I will gain by assisting with the scheduled surgeries, sick visits and behavior consults will greatly benefit me as a new graduate. I have always been interested in Shelter Medicine, and was an officer in the Shelter Medicine Club here at Kansas State. I hope that my experience will only add to my desire to work within the field of shelter medicine in some capacity in the future."


Bonnie Rush


College of Veterinary Medicine

News tip

Prairie Village; San Diego, California; Petersburg, Illinois; and Flushing, New York


Download a high-resolution photo.

"Kansas Pasture" by John Steuart Curry

Four Kansas State University veterinary medicine students are recipients of grants from Maddie's Fund. From left are Caitlin Sullivan, Allison Nelson, Tracey Stonebridge and Bailey Davis. 

Written by

Joe Montgomery

At a glance

Thanks to Maddie's Fund, four Kansas State University veterinary medicine students are getting the opportunity to serve externships at high-quality, large-scale, adoption-guarantee shelter environments.