Clinics at Little Earth of United Tribes give veterinary students the gift of immersive learning

April 4, 2018

The Native America Humane Society’s partnership with local community helps CVM advance veterinary education

The Native America Humane Society (NAHS) prioritizes investing in the future of animal care and veterinary medicine in Indian country. And, in 2017, NAHS brought their mission to Minneapolis by coordinating veterinary wellness clinics for companion animals in the Little Earth of United Tribes community.

Together, the NAHS and Little Earth of United Tribes host the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine student-run Veterinary Treatment Outreach for Urban Community Health (VeTOUCH), giving students the opportunity to bring what they have learned in the classroom into a real-world context.

The gift that keeps on giving

The NAHS, the Little Earth of United Tribes community, and VeTOUCH students have held three clinics at Little Earth of United Tribes over the last year. The nature of these clinics helps build skills for future veterinarians under the supervision of licensed veterinarians. Students set up and run a pop-up clinic, provide quality care in a fast-paced environment, and engage with owners—career-lasting skills, all.

Veterinary medical student Emily Dorjath has been involved with the Little Earth of United Tribes clinics since the beginning of the partnership and counts herself fortunate for the abundant experience. “I consider myself lucky to have made new connections with local veterinarians,” she says, “and I have loved being able to provide care to animals in a community that really values it.”

In the clinic and beyond

Most recently, 30 student volunteers engaged with more than 80 pets at a clinic held on February 24. By the end of the clinic, 37 dogs and 16 cats had benefited from wellness check-ups, with ailments ranging from respiratory infections to dislocated hips. Students learned to think on their feet and deliver a diverse set of treatments with the resources at hand. Meanwhile, 21 dogs and 10 cats received services from Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program (MN SNAP), a mobile surgical clinic whose presence at Little Earth of United Tribes was coordinated by NAHS and funded by Pet Haven of Minnesota and Feline Rescue, Inc.

But for the students, hands-on learning didn’t stop at the clinic doors. When one community member could not attend due to mobility challenges, VeTOUCH students brought care to her pet, in-home. “We were able to provide the same care for her pet as we did for those that came into the clinic,” says Dorjath, “and the students who went learned a lot about being flexible and creative for an animal in need.”

Donor support keeps clinics coming

The generosity of NAHS, Little Earth of United Tribes, and various other private donors brightens VeTOUCH’s future and improves care. The Little Earth of United Tribes clinics are able to give animals pet food, toys, accessories, and vaccines, thanks to donor support. Moving forward, VeTOUCH has set its sights on regularly including dental services for clients, which would give students more experience in developing specialized dental skills.

The organization is always seeking new volunteer veterinarians to help students learn, and pre-veterinary students are also welcome to join to gain exposure. The next Little Earth of United Tribes clinic will be held on November 17, 2018, and VeTOUCH also holds clinics the first Sunday of every month from 3-7pm at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.

If you are interested in getting involved, or if you’d like to support VeTOUCH, please contact vetouch@umn.edu or 612-284-7293.

Photograph by Marilou Chanrasmi