Community Medicine Initiative

The University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with local animal welfare groups, aims to create an innovative model to care for the animals within our communities. In addition to supporting community health, this process will train the next generation of veterinarians to provide responsive and responsible veterinary care to the entire community.

Our vision

Owner holding dog while vet student clips the dogs nailsFocus on preventive and early intervention veterinary services

In resource-limited environments, people often do not have the opportunity to seek veterinary care until there’s a crisis.  We aim to improve access to routine veterinary care and early triage of medical and behavioral concerns.

This program will empower pet owners to maintain health and wellness for their animals, and keep animals healthy and in their homes.

A veterinary student observing a surgeryTraining future veterinarians to be effective advocates and practitioners

Animals living in communities with barriers to accessing veterinary care often belong to people who also face many barriers to supporting their own health.

This program will provide future veterinarians with the tools and knowledge to advocate for their clients and work successfully in these environments.

Our community partners

  • VeTOUCH hosts monthly free wellness clinics for pet owners with limited resources in the basement of the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.
  • SIRVS hosts six multi-day events per year to provide spay/neuter and wellness services in Tribal communities within the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Nation, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Red Lake Nation.
  • University Avenue Clinic, a partnership with the Animal Humane Society (AHS), will offer students the opportunity to work with University of Minnesota faculty, AHS veterinarians, and staff in the Frogtown neighborhood in St. Paul. This space is poised to to serve as an accessible hub for resources on companion animal care, including behavior and training support, pet food shelf, veterinary services, and space for community use.
Student in PPE holding a puppy at a community clinic event

 In resource-limited communities, supporting animal health and wellness can improve the lives of animals and their people.

Meeting community need

  • Pet ownership statistics1:
    • 68% of U.S. households have a pet
    • 29 million pets live with families requiring public assistance
    • 40% of pets don’t see a veterinarian in their lifetime
  • Pet owners face barriers to preventive, sick, and emergency care for their pets2
    • These include financial limitations, clinic accessibility challenges, cultural or language barriers, and challenges in veterinary-client relationships, including communication, trust, and access to education about pet care.
  • VeTouch and SIRVS have experienced student and community demand beyond their capacity.
  • AHS-University Avenue is a new partnership site that will serve an under-resourced community and train students at different points in their veterinary education. 
  • Providing interprofessional educational opportunities for students across health care disciplines is an essential training component for future professionals working to expand existing healthcare infrastructure to include care options for the entire family, including pets.

1. Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, 2018.
2. Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, 2018; LaVallee, et al. 2017.

Our Goals

A student and teacher operating on a pet

Create an innovative model of companion animal care by integrating community medicine competencies into existing coursework while also expanding immersive learning opportunities through community partnerships.

Two students weighing a dog

Create an integrated approach to training veterinary students in community medicine, building a more holistic approach to teaching veterinary medicine that includes skills like cross-cultural communication, creative thinking, partnership building, and resource identification.

A student with a huskey puppy

Showcase a local model for community medicine that incorporates veterinary care, veterinary student training, and animal welfare into the broader community health plan.

How you can support this initiative 

  • Donate- Consider supporting the efforts of our community partners, SIRVS, and/or VeTOUCH with a monetary donation. Please contact Lauren Craft at [email protected] for more details. 
  • Volunteer- Faculty, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians can volunteer with SIRVS and VeTOUCH. Contact [email protected] or [email protected] to learn more.
  • Advocate- Learn more about our community partners and help spread the word about challenges pet owners face in accessing veterinary services.

Want to learn more? Contact Lauren Bernstein at [email protected]