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Clinical Rotation in Shelter Medicine (VTMED 6623)

Fall, spring. 2 credits. Letter grades only.

Enrollment limited to: third- and fourth-year veterinary students who have completed Foundation Course V.  

Instructors: L. DeTar, E. Henry, A. Cohen (Supported by faculty and staff of Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell)

Shelter Medicine is a relatively new discipline within the practice of veterinary medicine. This clinical rotation exposes students to the principles and practice of veterinary medicine in a shelter setting. While much time is spent providing direct veterinary medical care to individual shelter animals, there is directed focus on introducing students to population-level principles. The daily schedule includes clinical work, daily shelter rounds, and daily topic rounds. Topics include but are not limited to infectious disease diagnosis, treatment, and management; shelter wellness protocols; high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter; shelter data management; sanitation and disinfection; and population and capacity planning. While spay/neuter is part of shelter medicine, this is NOT a surgical intensive rotation. This course may be repeated for credit.

Dr. DeTar prepares Rhiannon Desideri, a 4th year veterinary student, to make the first cut during a CornellVetCARES Community Cat Spay/Neuter Clinic with MSMP at Cornell.


When I started my two-week clinical rotation here at Tompkins County SPCA the first animal I had the opportunity to work with was a young, mixed breed dog named Gizmo.  The only abnormality that Gizmo presented with was mandibular prognathism, which is a fancy way of saying that he has an underbite.  While Gizmo’s lower jaw protrudes past his upper jaw, it was not causing him any problems and just gave this energetic pup an adorably unique look.  With no other abnormalities found on physical exam, the plan going forward was to neuter Gizmo before putting him up for adoption.  Neutering is an important procedure to not only help reduce the number of unwanted litters, but it is also the best way to prevent the development of testicular cancers and reduce behaviors such as marking, aggression, and roaming.  I was able to perform Gizmo’s neuter procedure (my first!) a few days later under the guidance of Dr. Lisa Rodriguez.  Gizmo was back on his feet in no time and out the door of the adoption center only a few days later.  I was so happy to be a part of this dog’s journey towards finding a loving home, and grateful to get the chance to improve my clinical skills and knowledge about the complexities of shelter medicine while here at the Tompkins County SPCA.    

                                                                                    -Hannah Schnitzler, Cornell University CVM