Larissa Minicucci wins College of Veterinary Medicine's Community-Engaged Scholar award

March 29, 2018

On March 28, Larissa Minicucci, DVM, MPH, was awarded the College of Veterinary Medicine's Community-Engaged Scholar award, which recognizes one faculty member or P&A individual annually for exemplary and engaged scholarship in their field. She was also one of seven individuals nominated for the President’s Community-engaged Scholar Award, which honors a long standing career that embodies the University of Minnesota’s definition of public engagement.

Collaboration, community, and cultivation

When it comes to community engagement, Minicucci has consistently shown the value of intentional, symbiotic relationship investment. She has facilitated partnerships with four Native American communities in Minnesota—Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Nation, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Lower Sioux Indian Community—to deliver access to veterinary care and youth education, while providing her students with the opportunity to practice their owner-interaction and animal care skills. Her longstanding history of building relationships with American Indian communities began in 2009 when Minicucci traveled to Leech Lake with one colleague and nine students in tow. The goal was to increase rabies vaccination rates in response to increased dog bite incidents. Two days and forty-five animals later, a partnership was born.

The students involved went on to found the Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services (SIRVS), a campus life organization that partners with Native American communities in Minnesota to deliver veterinary care and education while offering students the chance to engage in hands-on learning. The organization’s model fosters true collaboration: SIRVS provides staff, supplies, and veterinary care ranging from vaccinations and physical exams to spay and neuter surgeries, while community partners provide the organization with a clinic location, meals, marketing, lodging for volunteer veterinarians and technicians, and cultural education for veterinary students. Through at least six community clinics, SIRVS now provides services to approximately 650-800 animals annually.

In addition to working with American Indian communities, Minicucci partners with more than 15 different community and government organizations from the Minnesota Department of Health, to Lorentz Meats and Helping Paws to bring students out of the classroom and into the field, where they can engage in conversation with future colleagues and clients. “I couldn’t do it without participation from the communities and organizations we work with,” says Minicucci. “Every person who engages with our students or comes into one of our clinics with an animal is teaching our students.”

A fruitful career

In 2017, Minicucci won the Outstanding Student Group Advisor from the University of Minnesota and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association. The US Public Health Service has also awarded her with The Crisis Response Award for her Hurricane Katrina response activities and The Foreign Duty Award for foreign service she completed in Uganda and Madagascar. She is also the recipient of the Excellence in Course Coordination Award from the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Award of Excellence in Global Health Achievement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Minicucci is an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine. She directs the DVM/MPH program in collaboration with the School of Public Health, which reaches veterinary students across the United States at over 20 veterinary schools. Her research interests include infectious disease epidemiology, zoonotic disease prevention, cultural competence, and community health.

Contact SIRVS to volunteer as a mentor veterinarian or support the program.

To learn more about the President’s Community-Engaged Faculty Scholar Awards, visit the University’s public engagement website.
To learn more about Larissa Minicucci, visit her faculty page.