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Learning to heal

Community Practice Clinic-H.Action
The new Community Practice Clinic features open space and natural lighting with state-of-the-art equipment. From left: Jessica Griffin and Jonathan Dear complete a dental cleaning with the assistance of Amanda Pearce

New Community Practice Clinic gives veterinary medicine students practical experience

It’s another busy day in the veterinary clinic as Jonathan Dear and Jessica Griffin assist with a dental cleaning on a golden retriever. Dear keeps the vitals while Griffin works steadily to clean the dog’s teeth before he wakes up. Out in the lobby, clients wait for their small pets’ check ups in a bright, sunlit room.

As part of a new initiative to provide veterinary students more practical clinical experience, the College of Veterinary Medicine opened its new Community Practice Clinic last spring in Building 9, a former teaching lab in the heart of the veterinary medicine campus. The result of three years of extensive planning, the CPC provides students with basic outpatient medicine, anesthesia and minor surgical experience on healthy animals. It replaces the cramped quarters within the main Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

“This clinic is the realization of thoughtful planning that started with an ad hoc committee,” said Sheila Allen, dean of the veterinary medicine college. “The concept of this rotation also was the result of the feedback received from the employers of our graduates.

“They told us through our survey instruments that our students needed more training in preventive medicine for the companion animals, time management in client consultation, client communication skills and the utilization of paraprofessional personnel,” Allen said. “Our alumni told us our graduates will be better prepared for private practice if they gain an appreciation while in school that, in order to stay in business and be able to practice good medicine for their patients and clients, they must use their time wisely and charge appropriately for their services.”

 Local veterinarian Mark Mosher, a 1981 graduate of the veterinary medicine college, agrees.

“The  Community Practice Clinic gives veterinary students experience in areas commonly seen in a typical small animal practice,” he said. “I believe it will be seen as a wise investment by the College of Veterinary Medicine for the education of its veterinary students.”

The clinic is run by Dr. Kathy Kero, an assistant professor in small animal medicine, and is staffed by six to eight students and an intern on each ­three-week rotation. Modeled after many successful private practices, each student has the opportunity to conduct medical exams and minor surgical procedures with daily rounds sessions all under Dr. Kero’s supervision. Additionally housed within the clinic are behavioral services under the direction of Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis and dermatological services under Dr. Patrick Hensel and Dr. Michaela Austel.

At the end of rotations, each student is able to take basic routine histories, diagnose acute medical conditions and dermatological disorders, conduct dental exams, address common canine and feline behavioral problems and troubleshoot practice management issues.

“The Community Practice Clinic allows senior veterinary students to be the doctor,” said Courtenay Ratterree, a 2007 graduate of the veterinary medicine college.  “After graduation, most of us will end up in a private practice, and the CPC provides us with the opportunity to gain this type of experience and prepares us to handle cases appropriately.”

Ratterree, recently named Veterinarian of the Year by the GVMA Auxiliary, is using her experience in a small animal medicine and surgery rotating internships at UGA’s veterinary medicine college.

“The new Community Practice Clinic gives us the opportunity to practice our clinical skills in an environment similar to that of a general practice, fostering a relationship between UGA and the local community,” said Jonathan Dear,  a 2007 graduate of the veterinary medicine college, who has entered a small animal medicine internship at VCA Animal Emergency and Referral Center in San Diego, Calif. “Also, having facilities separate from the rest of the hospital creates an experience much more realistic of private practice.”

While a referral from a local or CPC veterinarian is required for dermatological and behavioral services, the general clinic services are open to the public. Pet owners within a 30-mile radius of UGA are welcome to make an appointment for wellness checks, vaccinations, spay or neutering and routine sickness or injuries for their dogs and cats. To make an appointment, call the ­Community Practice Clinic at (706) 542-1984. The CPC is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.