Veterinary Social Work Summit?

The University of Tennesee created a program to help those in veterinary social workers and veterinarians work together to make things easier for each other and families of pets.

You haven’t heard of the Veterinary Social Work Summit? Well, you’re not alone. Even though 2013 marks the third such Summit (although they skipped 2012), it is still an event that is not widely known among veterinary professionals. Perhaps this blog is the first step to changing that!

In short, the University of Tennessee has combined the College of Veterinary Medicine with the College of Social Work, and created a master’s program called Veterinary Social Work. Still confused? Then let me explain the four basic cornerstones of this program. They focus on:

  • Animal-assisted therapy (for humans)
  • The link between animal and human abuse
  • Pet loss and grief
  • Compassion fatigue

As you can see, a few of these topics are really focused on the social workers’ areas of expertise: animal-assisted therapy for humans, and the link of the two types of abuse. The other two are topics that we veterinary professionals are intimately involved in, helping ourselves and our pet families deal with grief and pet loss, while at the same time trying to avoid the throes of compassion fatigue.

Although I was one of only about three people from veterinary medicine in attendance in 2011, I do feel that this is an event where we can bring both professions together to find out how we can help each other. I’m also happy to say that this year, the Summit has expanded its topics and presenters, and myself as well as many other veterinary professionals spoke at the Summit in Knoxville.

This is timely information, as in 2011, representatives from AAHA participated in a roundtable at the Summit. From this discussion, a document was generated with the synthesis of both professions and published by AAHA in 2012: Human Support in Veterinary Settings (see this document at /redirect.aspx? This is an important first step to discovering how our two professions can help each other, help animals, and help a society where the human-animal bond is growing stronger with each passing day.

For more information about the Veterinary Social Work Summit, visit /redirect.aspx?

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