Claudia Juarez smiled as her 5-year-old daughter Eva cuddled their poodle, Mini, in the waiting room of Focus Points Family Resource Center in North Denver on Saturday.
Juarez was among hundreds of community members who joined Colorado State University’s fourth annual clinic, a unique collaboration providing veterinary care and human health care under one roof.
“This is my first time coming and I’m very thankful for it,” she said. “Taking care of our pets is really important, but many times it’s really expensive, so utilizing resources like this is important. We love our pets as much as we love one another – they’re family to us.”
The clinic displayed a collaborative model for access to health care, said Dr. Danielle Straatmann, a veterinarian and director of international student experiences for the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who has run the clinic since its inception.
“Through offering health consults for people and their pets in the same location, an additional barrier to care is removed,” Straatmann said. “It is so encouraging to see human and animal health specialists come together to provide preventive health care measures to a community, encouraging them that care is accessible and possible.”
CSU veterinarians and veterinary students and PetAid Colorado, provided more than 100 complimentary check-ups and vaccinations for animals in the community during the clinic. Dumb Friends League performed 28 spay/neuter operations on dogs in the community.
The human health component was new to the event this year, and was a collaboration with neighborhood health provider Clinica Tepayac and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus’ Rural Track students. During the clinic, individuals received 90 influenza shots and general health screenings, and volunteers identified two serious diseases.
“People should not have to choose between the health of their pets and their own families’ health,” said Enrique Doster, CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. candidate. “With continued collaboration between human and animal health care providers we can aim for a holistic approach, also known as One Health, to target the health of people, animals, and the environment.”
Jennifer Gusman, a senior at the neighborhood Bruce Randolph School, volunteered for the event with a friend. Gusman, who plans to be a dental assistant and pursue a degree in dentistry, found the day to be a great way to connect with her community and to her future career in health.
“I met some people who haven’t been checked out by a doctor for five years or more, so I talked to them about needing to get into see a doctor regularly. It’s an opportunity to tell them that there are places to get help – it is better to know if something is going on with your body,” said Gusman, 18. “I connect to people in this community because they’re the people I grew up around.”
Vanessa Rozo, a second-year veterinary medicine student at CSU, felt a similar connection with the community at the event.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Rozo said. “The community seems really thankful for this event, and it feels really great to help out. I’m Hispanic, so it feels nice to help out my own community.”
Christie Vilsack, a special advisor to CSU, spent much of the day reading children’s books to kids waiting for their animals to finish their shots – she reflected on the “sense of community and sense of family” she witnessed throughout the day.
“Best of all is watching the kids nurturing and taking care of their animals,” Vilsack said. “It’s a community who truly wants to care for their pets.”
The event started in 2013 as an outreach effort to introduce community programming that may exist at the planned National Western Center, and to meet a need expressed by the community.
“Because PetAid and CSU will be a permanent part of the National Western Center, this takes a service that will be at the facility into the community,” said Katie Koch, director of programs and initiatives at PetAid Colorado. “It’s something that will continue, and it’s nice to be able to meet people where they are at right now, and to meet our future neighbors.”
Mayela Flores, 12, brought her grandmother’s dog, Chiquita, to the clinic, and feels better knowing that her loved ones, both human and furry, have a chance to be healthy.
“I want them to all be safe,” she said, as she patiently waited while her mom, aunt and grandmother received flu shots.
“And I want our dogs to be healthy. Dogs help you not be alone, and they like being
with you and being around a lot – they are fun, so want them to be healthy.”
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