Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program

Saving lives through science, leadership, and service.

Shelter Medicine Internship

2020 Maddie's Shelter Medicine Intern, Dr. Wesley Cheung, snuggles with a dog at the Tompkins County SPCA.

The goal of this intensive one-year internship is to produce skilled practitioners who are ready to take on leadership roles in the field of Shelter Medicine. 

Internship Objectives

The specific objectives of the Shelter Medicine Internship Program are: 

  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, dentistry, ophthalmology, and exotic animal medicine. 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 in field conditions 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 the SPCA of Tompkins County, as well as opportunities for travel to other HQHVSN settings. 
  4. To provide advanced training in companion animal behavioral health as it applies to animal shelters. This will be accomplished through time spent with a shelter medicine behaviorist, participation in ongoing workshops at local and regional shelters, and course lectures. 
  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, and shelter staff. 
  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 be designed in light of intake protocols, housing, staffing, and facility issues. 
  9. To provide support for academic research and scientific writing. This may 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. 
  10. To provide opportunities to develop skills in data collection and management utilizing shelter-friendly software and to become familiar with basic shelter medicine metrics. 
  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.

Upon satisfactory completion of the internship, a “Certificate of Shelter Medicine Internship” will be awarded. 

Overview of the Shelter Medicine Internship Program

Shelter medicine differs from traditional small animal private practice in that it blends individual patient care with population health management, including preventative medicine and behavioral health. Interns work in local animal shelters and in the Cornell University Hospital for Animals with an experienced clinician to deliver care to shelter animals, as well as to consult on best shelter practices aimed at health maintenance and management of disease. Prevention of pet homelessness, including additional training in spay/neuter and behavior, is also emphasized. Interns will participate in shelter medicine and other relevant seminars, journal clubs and shelter medicine rounds (often leading the discussions). Interns are also expected to assist in the supervision of veterinary students in the Community Practice Service and on the Shelter Medicine rotation (which includes spay/neuter training) at local shelters, and provide several lectures in the shelter medicine elective courses. Excellent communication skills, adaptability, and a collaborative nature are critical to success in this internship. 

Approximately 20% of the internship will be spent rotating through clinical services in the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, with rotations on services with most applicability to a career in shelter medicine -- including community practice, triage, dermatology, dentistry, exotics, and necropsy. Shelter medicine interns will serve on emergency duty 3 shifts per month with the other rotating interns and will also provide emergency on-call services for the local shelters 10-14 days per month including weekends, with faculty back up at all times. On clinical rotations at the CUHA, the intern will act as a member of a clinical service along with senior students, a resident in specialty training, and a clinical faculty member. 

Experienced veterinarians and recent graduates who are passionate about changing the lives of homeless pets and shelter animals are welcome to apply.


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

Further Information

Elizabeth Berliner, DVM
Director of Clinical Programs
Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program
S1-072 Schurman Hall
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Email: eab35@cornell.edu