Shelter Medicine Program History

The Tufts Shelter Medicine Program at Cummings School was founded in 2006 with the mission “to care for underserved animals in our community while providing hands-on learning opportunities to veterinary students.”

Initially developed by a working group of regional leaders in animal welfare, Cummings School was a natural choice for a Shelter Medicine Program because of the close proximity to the Animal Rescue League of Boston and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, both nationally known leaders in the field of animal welfare, along with numerous other smaller partnering organizations such as the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. The New England area has historically been considered the cradle of the Animal Welfare movement in the United States and the partners felt that there was a need to advance Shelter Medicine in the region.

Developing the Shelter Medicine Program was also consistent with the Cummings Schools’ national reputation for progressive veterinary programming, serving as the home for the Center for Animals and Public Policy (CAPP) since 1983. With its associated Master of Science in Animals and Public Policy program (MAPP), CAPP is a nationally respected pioneer in the ethical, legal and social implications of human-animal relations, hosting the Cummings School’s signature program in Animal Welfare, Ethics and Policy, which provides instruction in ethics and values to veterinary students. Finally, with an emphasis on community service and outreach, the Shelter Medicine Program resonates with Tufts University’s focus on active citizenship and civic life.

Under the leadership of Dr. Deborah Kochevar, Dean Emeritus at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, the Shelter Medicine Program formally launched in 2008.

Since inception, the program has expanded to offer a variety of didactic and experiential learning opportunities for students in all years of the veterinary curriculum and the MAPP program. The program includes didactic content in the core veterinary curriculum, selective courses for student with a special interest in Shelter Medicine, elective rotations at area shelter partners and a robust surgical training program that provides spay neuter training for students.

To date, the Shelter Medicine Program has collaborated in the spaying and neutering of more than 20,000 animals. With early objectives achieved, the future of the program, currently directed by Dr. Emily McCobb and guided by a steering committee representing regional partners as well as Cummings School faculty and staff, looks to sustainability and integration with the rest of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s mission, in parallel with the addition of a community medicine element. The end success of the program lies in maintaining a balance in the population of animals and reaching animals in their homes to prevent them from ever entering the shelter.


Clinic Opens

Program Year: 0 / Academic Year: 2003

The Luke and Lily Lerner Spay/Neuter Clinic at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center opened.

Friday Clinic

Program Year: 0 / Academic Year: 2006

1st Advanced Surgery Selective

Program Year: 0 / Academic Year: 2007

First Advanced Surgery Elective is created by Dr. Susie Mitchell; Dean Deborah T. Kochevar, DVM, PhD, DACVC arrives at Cummings School.

Working Group Formed

Program Year: 1 / Academic Year: 2008-2009

Working group for the Shelter Medicine Program is formed and first Sunday Community Cat Clinic is piloted with Merimack River Feline Rescue by Dr. Annette Rauch and Margaret Brender with support of Dr. John Berg.

Program Officially Launches

Program Year: 2 / Academic Year: 2009-2010

Program officially launches; Tufts Friday Clinic launches and full time mangement of LSNC transitions from MAC to Cummings School; Sunday Community Cat Clinics first take students; first Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) student clinic (one day event

Program Director Appointed

Program Year: 3 / Academic Year: 2010-2011

Dr. Emily McCobb assumes Program Director role; Medicine Course and Disaster Medicine courses begin; first Shelter Dog Dental Day; Spring launch reception; website launches.

Spay Worcester Task Force

Program Year: 4 / Academic Year: 2011-2012

Spay Worcester Task force is formed; WHA moves to multi-site model and partnership with Becker college develops; partnered with CE and MAC for Whole Cat workshop; first held 10 Sunday Clinics per year; first spay neutered 2000 animals in one year; first student paper published.

Pediatric Rotation

Program Year: 5 / Academic Year: 2012-2013

Pediatric Rotation at Sterling added; WHA visits become periodic; Tufts at Tech opens; first student presents poster at a conference; held Super Clinic for 106 cats.

Tufts at Tech Rotation Launches

Program Year: 6 / Academic Year: 2013-2014

Tufts at Tech core rotation launches; first Forensics Course is taught.

Animal Cruelty Research Begins

Program Year: 7 / Academic Year: 2014-2015

Residency Established

Program Year: 8 / Academic Year: 2015-2016

Maddies Shelter Medicine Residency at Cummings established; Center for Shelter Dogs moves to Cummings and becomes part of Tufts Shelter Medicine; added second year course in applied animal behavior under Seana Dowling-Guyer.

Electronic Medical Records Launched

Electronic medical record launches for Luke and Lily Spay/Neuter Clinic.

Outreach clinic in partnership with Becker College performs over 500 wellness visits.