UVA Health Pet Therapy Dogs Offer Delightful Break for BIMS Students this Summer

August 9, 2023 by

two girls and a dog

BIMS students Sarah Lynch (left) and Lexi Johnson spend time with a golden retriever named April Sweetie.

The School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program (BIMS) students remain on Grounds year-round, working in their labs doing research and experiments. During the dog days of summer, BIMS scheduled a visit from the UVA Health Pet Therapy Program to give the students a break and make the long days go by a little easier. The event was a great success and a highlight of our students’ summer! Connecting with the highly trained therapy dogs brought a lot of joy and smiles to the students. 

The UVA Health Pet Therapy Program is beloved by patients, families, guests, faculty, staff and students. The program has 20 certified therapy dogs and their handlers. The teams, comprised of a dog and handler, go through rigorous training to be certified as a “Good Citizen” before being eligible to participate in the program. Once certified, teams are tasked with providing support to specific areas throughout the medical center. On an average shift, pet therapy teams meet anywhere from two to 100 people in hallways, elevators, the medical center lobby, patient rooms, and more. 

Hannah Kaufman, the UVA Health volunteer services coordinator for the pet therapy program, stated, “It was lovely to see many BIMS students respond so well to the pet therapy event hosted near McKim Hall. It was a nice break for the students to be outside and pet a dog for a little while.”

The students who attended the pet therapy event couldn’t agree more with Hannah. Dana Van Fossen, a BIMS second-year in the Petri Lab (second row, far right photo, with Sree Kolli, a BIMS fourth-year student in the Rutkowski Lab) who visited with Piper, the cavapoo said, “Connecting with the therapy dogs was a nice way to pause and remember the importance of living in the moment and why taking a break is so necessary for our mental health.”

Another student, Stephanie Moy, a BIMS second-year in the Gaultier Lab (pictured in fourth row, first and third photos with a golden retriever named April Sweetie) was also excited to spend time with the dogs, sharing, “There are few greater joys in this life than spending quality time with some good pups, especially in the middle of a workday. Piper stole my heart with her tricks and tummy rubs, and April Sweetie was the light of stars across oceans guiding me to a state of tranquility.”

Visiting with the precious UVA Health Pet Therapy Program dogs was a true bright spot in the BIMS students’ schedule this summer. Thank you to the dogs and their handlers for allowing our students a brief moment to step away from the stress of school and cuddle with some very cute dogs!


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