University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program residents visit Best Friends

Residents from Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Amie Burling and Staci Cannon, residents of the University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, recently spent 10 days at the Sanctuary, learning from the pros. Their visit included several days in the Best Friends Animal Clinic, shadowing medical director Dr. Michael Dix; a day with Best Friends Community Programs and Services; and some time with Dr. Frank McMillan, director of well-being studies. They even got some hands-on experience in Dogtown, assisting caregivers and observing their day-to-day work. Both Amie and Staci were really excited to learn about different components of Best Friends and to gain some important knowledge about animal care that they can pass along to other shelters and rescue organizations across the country.

Amie Burling and Staci Cannon, two veterinary students from he University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, at Parrot GardenShelter medicine specialty within veterinary field

Shelter medicine is an emerging specialty within the veterinary field. Though it is expanding, only a few veterinary schools currently offer programs in it. In addition to lectures, courses and research opportunities, Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program residents have the opportunity to travel to municipal shelters, privately funded humane societies, and sanctuaries around the country – including Best Friends.

The training will not only make Amie and Staci better veterinarians, but it will also enable them to become what they call “conduits of information” – sharing the knowledge and information they acquire so they can help other shelters and rescue organizations across the country improve their programs and operations.

Amie described their meeting with the Community Programs and Services team as “inspirational,” and says, “It was a highlight to see the amazing work of a committed team of people involved both with the (Sanctuary) admissions process to aid animals in crisis, while also empowering shelters and rescue groups around the country to share resources through the Network partner program.”

Staci, meanwhile, found great value in “learning about the variety of training and enrichment options used to meet the daily physical and emotional needs of the dogs living at Dogtown.” She was especially “delighted to see how each dog receives substantial individual attention from their caregivers, interns and volunteers.”

Veterinary students Amie Burling and Staci Cannon receiving instruction at the Best Friends animal clinicCareer path for veterinary students

Since animal shelter medicine is such a new focus, there isn’t a set career path for students in the program. But Amie and Staci’s goal is to work with shelters in some capacity, and to eventually teach veterinary students and veterinarians who work with shelter populations. Since returning from the Sanctuary, they have already been encouraging shelters to join Best Friends’ Network partners program. They have also started sharing information about Best Friends’ enrichment program, animal housing, and other things that can improve life for homeless pets all over the country.

Whatever path their careers take, that is the overall goal – to improve the quality of life for animals in shelters. The training they received at Best Friends will help them succeed in this mission.

Learn more about visiting the Sanctuary.

Learn more about our Network partners program.

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Photos by Molly Wald

Network Partners