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Two vet students in scrubs treat a cat
Rebecca Radisic, left, and Suetching Yu, both second-year veterinarian students at UC Davis, treat a cat at the Knights Landing Clinic. (Students for One Health, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine photo)

Student-Run Project Hopes to Serve as Model for Care in Underserved Communities

By Julia Ann Easley on October 18, 2016

Knights Landing is a small, modest community in rural Yolo County, California. About 1,000 people live there, many with beloved cats and dogs. But there is no veterinarian to care for the companion animals — except on the third Sunday of the month.

That's when veterinarians and vet med students from UC Davis — some 20 miles away and ranked No. 1 in the world in veterinary science — set up a clinic at the local community center to serve Knights Landing and Robbins, an even smaller town about five miles up the highway.

“We really love our clients,” said Amber Robert, a third-year vet med student who is one of three directors of the student-run Knights Landing Clinic. “They love their animals, and they're so thankful.”

The genius of the clinic: Pet owners don't have to lose a day of work to get to the nearest veterinarian services 15 to 20 miles away. The vet med students get experience doing what they love to do. And the animals are healthier for it.

A One Health approach

Now in its fourth year, the clinic is a project of Students for One Health, an organization that champions the concept that the health of people, animals and the environment is interdependent and can best be addressed together.

In fact, students from the UC Davis School of Medicine run a health clinic just across the street on the first and third Sundays of the month.

Clinic days, which run from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., start with joint rounds of students staffing both clinics. This gives them an opportunity to learn about a health care topic that impacts people and their pets. For example, the students have discussed the signs of and treatments for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. “It fosters open communication between the veterinarian and medical fields, and it's an opportunity to practice One Health medicine,” said Robert.

Clinic services

Robert said most of what the vet clinic sees are ear infections, respiratory diseases and skin issues. But the team of about 45 — including supervising veterinarians from UC Davis and undergraduate volunteers — provides an impressive range of services. They include physical exams, vaccinations, preventative treatments for parasites, heartworm testing, preliminary bloodwork and urinalysis. They also offer referrals for free spaying and neutering later at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital on campus.

“We're becoming more and more like a regular clinic,” said Robert, who added that the clinic is funded by grants that the students seek out.

'Animals are part of their family'

Robert, who grew up with Rottweilers and now has a Taiwanese mountain dog, said she is touched by how much the clinic's clients care for their pets. “It's so amazing to see these clients come in every month,” she said. “Even with their own circumstances, they will do anything to care for their animals. The animals are part of their family.”

Robert said the clinic is now exploring how to engage graduate students from environmental disciplines. “Our hope is to serve as a model for the development of One Health clinics in other communities and around the world,” she said.

To set up a vet clinic appointment, residents of Knights Landing or Robbins can leave a message at 530-746-8125.

Julia Ann Easley of UC Davis News and Media Relations writes and supports communications about student life, graduate and undergraduate education, international activities, emergency preparedness and more.