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UD pre-vet students helping pets

Photos by Lauren Bradford | Video by Isabel DiGiovanni

One Health Delaware free vet clinic in Wilmington helps pets, people, students

On a rainy Saturday morning, staff and students huddled inside to quickly assign tasks and discuss the day’s schedule while patients began to arrive outside, tails wagging.

All were gathered at the Henrietta Johnson Medical Clinic for the monthly One Health Delaware Vet Clinic. Here, community members have an opportunity to bring their pets in for free exams, medications and vaccinations. At private veterinary offices, these visits could cost several hundred dollars.

University of Delaware students majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources serve as interns at the clinic, gaining valuable hands-on experience with their four-legged charges. They work alongside local veterinarians and students from Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine to learn and practice a wide range of veterinary skills.

Veterinarian Kristin Jankowski (center) teaches students how to complete a thorough veterinary wellness examination.
Veterinarian Kristin Jankowski (center) teaches students how to complete a thorough veterinary wellness examination.

“As an intern, we walk the clients and their patients through the whole process” said Carly Flink, a junior pre-vet student. “We’ll check them in, we’ll take a history of their animal, and then we’ll present them to the veterinarian to go through the exam. Depending on how comfortable the veterinarian is with you, you may draw blood, give dewormer, and run through an exam with them. After that, we take them to the pharmacy table, get their medications for them, check them out and sign them up for the next clinic if they’d like.”

Dr. Kristin Jankowski, the veterinarian at the helm of the One Health Delaware clinic, is happy to have had the help of UD interns since the clinic began in October 2017.

“They just jump in with both feet, they really soak a lot in,” Jankowski said. “A lot of it’s very new for them and it’s so different from what they can get in other volunteer or classroom experiences.”

A visitor patiently waits for the veterinarian at the One Health Delaware clinic in Southbridge, Wilmington.
A visitor patiently waits for the veterinarian at the One Health Delaware clinic in Southbridge, Wilmington.

One Health Delaware is sponsored by the Delaware Humane Association. Jankowski, who sits on the DHA board, noted that the location of the clinic in Southbridge, Wilmington, was deliberate.

“The Delaware Humane Association is right here in Wilmington and we’re just a couple blocks from the Henrietta Johnson Medical Clinic,” said Jankowski. “This is the community we’re trying to serve, which also is the lowest income area of Delaware. We wanted to make sure we were serving the people that needed the care the most for themselves and their pets.”

This care for the community beyond routine veterinary services is also something that the interns value.

“I thought it’s a really neat way to give back to the community,” said Carolina Graham, a first-year pre-vet student. “My family is from Peru and I’ve seen a lot of poor animals and stray animals on the street. I know it’s hard for people that don’t exactly have the money to get veterinary care, because veterinary care can be very expensive sometimes. This is a really great way to help people who love their pets but just don’t have the means to pay for extra care. That’s what drew me to this program.”

UD pre-vet students Erik Gary and Carly Flink work with their canine patient.
UD pre-vet students Erik Gary and Carly Flink work with their canine patient.

And that care for the community is also a critical component of the One Health concept.

“One Health is multiple professions working together collaboratively for the health of people, animals and the environment,” said Jankowski. So while pets are receiving care, their owners meet with medical providers to check their blood pressure, schedule medical appointments and discuss healthy living habits. UD Cooperative Extension is on hand to help facilitate these discussions.

Aliyah Parsons, a sophomore pre-vet student, participated in a One Health course offered at UD. “The One Health class helped me prepare. I feel more knowledgeable about the concept and feel like I can continue to reach out to people about it,” she said. “My favorite part of this internship is when people from the community thank us for what we’re doing. It’s very rewarding when someone says ‘Oh, I’m glad that you’re here.’”

One Health Delaware is available for residents of the Southbridge community on the first Saturday of each month.

A puppy waits patiently at the One Health Delaware clinic in Southbridge, Wilmington.
A puppy waits patiently at the One Health Delaware clinic in Southbridge, Wilmington.

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