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Future vets helping pets: Unique partnership provides training for students

At the Oregon Humane Society, there's a window opening to a back clinic. In the clinic, surgeons carefully–and deli...

Posted: May. 3, 2018 8:53 PM
Updated: May. 3, 2018 8:53 PM

At the Oregon Humane Society, there's a window opening to a back clinic. In the clinic, surgeons carefully–and delicately–perform spay and neuter operations, as well as other procedures, in full view.

While the surgeons certainly look the part, they're not quite veterinarians–not yet, at least.

"Don't tell my boss, but I love my job," doctor Kirk Miller, of Oregon State University, said recently. "I feel like a superhero. I get to teach students, and I get to help shelter animals."

Miller is a clinical instructor for the university's Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, but he spends his days in the Portland shelter, teaching students and monitoring them as they perform surgeries and care for pets.

For the last decade, OSU has partnered with the nonprofit shelter to provide veterinary students with crucial, real-world training.

"This is the only part of the curriculum where you get to be the primary surgeon," Danielle Roberts, a student, said.

Roberts and four other students spent three weeks at the shelter performing spay and neuters, diagnosing medical conditions, and giving routine exams to shelter animals, all under the guidance of licensed instructors and veterinarians.

"Students need hands-on experience, and the animals need care, so we're putting those two groups together and it's truly a win-win situation," Miller said.

Students also sometimes see the tough cases.

"It's really hard to see animals that have been neglected, and sometimes the outcomes aren't what you want," Roberts said.

But perhaps more powerful than stories of heartbreak are the stories of success and wagging tails.

"Even like a few days later, sometimes it's like, 'Oh, it's a different puppy,' and it just makes you so happy you were able to help that animal," Roberts said. "You can really make a difference - the ones that don't have an owner are the ones that really don't have anywhere to turn, and to be able to make a difference for them and get them adopted, I think it's great."

More than 3,300 pets have found their forever homes through the Oregon Humane Society so far this year, the shelter says.

Last year, more than 12,000 spay and neuters were performed at the shelter.

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