By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Something praiseworthy has been happening during the past few years regarding animal care. The Tufts at Tech Program has joined the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton with Worcester Technical High School to teach high school students animal care so that they may become Certified Veterinary Assistants or Certified Veterinary Technicians. And in the process, animal owners who would otherwise not have been able to afford costly veterinary care have such for their pets and other animals.
According to Dr. Greg Wolfus, the director and the driving force behind the Tufts at Tech Program, there was a growing need for medical care for animals and pets of less affluent area residents. While median household income in 2014 in Grafton was $73,141, during the same year the Worcester County median annual income was just $31,537, according to 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
The program started for three reasons, according to Wolfus. One was that there needed to be veterinary care for the ever growing underserved community in the Worcester. Second, as veterinary medicine has become ever more specialized and expensive, routine animal care has become less easily available to the community. And third, after the new $90 million Technical High School had been built and nursing vocational training had been added to the curriculum, several members of that program started thinking about also providing veterinary care to the same community. Subsequently, veterinary doctoral students under the supervision of Tufts veterinary staff began working with animal owners in Worcester.
Per the school bulletin, “Tufts at Tech is the first and only veterinary teaching clinic of its type in the country. Tufts at Tech provides a teaching environment that empowers students to change the lives of their clients through treatment of their animals by providing high quality low-cost preventative and primary care that otherwise they could not afford.”
So successful has been the three-year-old program that it is the first such high school level program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association . In 2014, 12 of the 13 Worcester Technical High School graduates (92 percent) in this program passed the Veterinary Assistant examination, while the national pass rate is just 75 percent. Normally, the veterinary assistant program is a two-year junior college course. The program at Worcester Tech enrolls 13 students per class; 35-40 have so far graduated and some are on the way to becoming certified veterinary technicians or doctors of veterinary medicine (DVM).
On an average daily basis, the staff at the clinic at Worcester Tech involves Wolfus, an additional DVM, several volunteer DVMs, eight veterinary medical students, three staff members, and eight Worcester Tech High School students.
“I lived in California until I came east to go to Tufts Veterinary School,” Wolfus said. “After graduation from UC Berkeley, I earned my DVM at Tufts in 1998 and went right into private practice in Westborough, but kept a teaching tie with Tufts – I like to teach.”
That link to the local area and his enjoyment in teaching led to community veterinary clinic work, “a dream job,” according to Wolfus. He lives in Shrewsbury (because of the schools, he said) with his wife, two children, some chickens, dogs, cats, and one musk turtle.
The clinic’s growth has been dramatic. It now serves 400 animal patients a month and is maxed-out because of the physical limitations of the school building.
“When we started the clinic and veterinary assistant program, we had 14 students volunteering. This year we have 120 applicants for fourteen spaces in the class,” Wolfus noted.
Veterinary care is provided to clients in need who are subsidized through one or several programs, including food stamp, WICK, residence through the Worcester Housing Authority, or living with Worcester Technical High School students.
On line views of and information about Tufts at Tech can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TuftsatTech.
For more information, contact Wolfus at [email protected].