Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program

Saving lives through science, leadership, and service.

Shelter Medicine Internship

Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program intern, Dr. Jodi Boyd, works with a dog at the SPCA of Tompkins County.

Since 2010, the Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell has successfully trained fourteen interns in shelter medicine who have tremendous impact across the country on animal shelter communities, companion animals in shelters, and the ongoing development of the specialty. Additionally, their work inspires other veterinary students to take interest in the plight of homeless, neglected, and abused companion animals. Our internship graduates have assumed leadership roles in shelters across North America, including Denver Dumb Friends League, the Animal Welfare Alliance of Camden NJ, the Connecticut Humane Society, the Pet Community Center in Nashville TN , the Animal Rescue League of Boston and the Toronto Humane Society. While engaging in their internship, our trainees have direct impact on students in all four years of training at the veterinary college: first and second year students participate 

2019 Shelter Medicine Intern Wesley Cheung cuddles a pup at the Tompkins County SPCA.
2019 Shelter Medicine Intern Wesley Cheung cuddles a pup at the Tompkins County SPCA.

with them in weekly rounds and weekly shelter clinics; third and fourth year students engage in direct clinical care on rotation at the shelters. Our students are instructed and inspired by our shelter medicine interns. The impact on animal welfare, from far reaching policy to the tiniest kitten, is real and

immeasurable. It is not a stretch to say that we have saved hundreds of thousands of animals through education and care at this point, and our internship is central to our work. Continued funding for this internship is critical to our program and its lifesaving mission.

2018 Shelter Medicine Intern Megan Stapleton performs surgery on an animal at the Tompkins County SPCA under the watchful eye of Dr. Erin Henry (Maddie's Shelter Medicine Instructor).

Internship Requirements

The application and selection process for the Shelter Medicine Internships occurs through the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program (VIRMP).

Pre-requisites for entering the matching process are a DVM or equivalent degree AND active licensure in at least one state in the United States (preferred) or country of origin. Preference will be given to candidates demonstrating previous interest and experience in shelter medicine. Requirements for applying to the VIRMP Program are:

  1. VIRMP application
  2. Veterinary School Official Transcript from University Registrar
  3. Personal Statement
  4. Curriculum Vitae
  5. 3-4 Standardized Letters of Reference

Internship Objectives

Our internship in shelter medicine has specific objectives:

  1. To provide advanced training in topics of preventive medicine and epidemiology as they apply to animal shelters. This includes visits to local participating shelters, as well as consultations with shelters requesting specific assistance over the course of the year. It is expected that by the year’s end the intern will be competent to complete a comprehensive facility evaluation with a consulting shelter, and offer formal recommendations in a final report.
  2. To provide opportunities to advance clinical knowledge and skills in general veterinary medicine, but especially in the areas of infectious disease, internal medicine, dermatology, ophthalmology, and exotics. This will be accomplished both in completion of clinical rotations in specialty departments of the Companion Animal Hospital, as well as providing on-site care at participating shelters. The intern will also gain insight into providing quality veterinary care with minimal diagnostic capabilities and practical treatment limitations.
  3. To provide advanced training in spay/neuter techniques, specifically those supporting high-quality/high-volume programs and pediatric spay/neuter. This will include participation in spay/neuter at SPCA of Tompkins County, Shelter Outreach Services, and Lollypop Farm, as well as opportunities for travel to the Humane Alliance Training Facility and an HSVMA field services clinic.
  4. To provide advanced training in companion animal behavioral health as it applies to animal shelters. This will be accomplished through two week-long rotations with the shelter medicine behaviorist and will consist of lectures and hands-on training at the SPCA of Tompkins County.
  5. To provide opportunities to develop didactic and clinical teaching skills. The first will involve training in technology and delivery of high-quality, professional lectures. The second will involve developing skills in small group facilitation and collaborative case-based clinical learning. Audiences will include academic colleagues, veterinary students, shelter staff, and at times, pet owners.
  6. To provide exposure to the psycho-social aspects of working in shelters, including but not limited to, recognition of animal abuse/neglect, issues in shelter staff management, “marketing” of animals in shelters, and new technologies to aid shelter management.
  7. To provide training in the areas of forensic pathology and cruelty investigation. This may include working in cooperation with the anatomic pathology department in necropsy as caseload allows.
  8. To provide advanced training in shelter facility evaluation. Medical protocols will always be examined in light of intake protocols, housing, staffing, and facility issues.
  9. To provide support for academic research and scientific writing. This will include the production and/ or publication of one scholarly case report demonstrating a comprehensive review of the relevant literature and synthesis of the principles of shelter medicine. This will also include the construction of an evidence-based Medical Policy and Protocol suitable for implementation at the SPCA of Tompkins County.
  10. To provide opportunities to develop skills in data collection and management utilizing shelter-friendly software: in this case, PetPoint.
  11. To expose interns to diverse and varied shelter settings. Interns will be required to visit informally a minimum of 15 animal shelters during the course of the internship year.

Further Information

Elizabeth Berliner, DVM
Director of Clinical Programs
Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program
S1-068 Schurman Hall
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853