By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Grafton – On April 20, groups of curious, enthusiastic supporters toured the newly renovated Henry & Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals, part of the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tuft University.
The tours were followed by a celebration of the renovation, as well as the administration, residents, faculty, staff, interns and students who strive to achieve the best results possible for their patients. Above all, it celebrated animals and the people who love them.
The $10 million renovation was made possible by generous donations from some of those animal lovers. Anne and Travis Engen, two such people, are long-time supporters of the hospital. They donated $2.5 million to ensure that Tufts would raise $5 million by the end of 2014, so that the fundraising campaign would receive a challenge grant of $2.5 million from the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund. The tours, which were primarily led by faculty at the teaching hospital, pointed out ways that their support and that of all the donors enhanced technical capabilities, communication and the health and wellness of patients.
For instance, stress on pets has been reduced by the creation of separate reception areas for cats and dogs, connected exam and treatment rooms and increased space in examination/treatment rooms in departments such as radiology, cardiology and ophthalmology. New unobtrusive cameras help faculty better assess student skills, and new large monitors provide updated information on emergency cases. There’s also a new outpatient pharmacy, a quiet reflections room for patients’ human families, an expanded ER and an increased number of state-of-the-art conference rooms.
After the tours ended, the reception was held in the Jean Mayer Administration Building, with speeches by Dr. Anthony P. Monaco, president of Tufts University, Dr. Deborah T. Kochevar, dean of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. David J. McGrath, chair of the Cummings Board of Advisors, Dr. Virginia Rentko, medical director for the Foster hospital for Small Animals and the one for large animals, and Alla Bezhentseva, a student at Cummings School.
McGrath, a Tufts alumnus, spoke of his amazement at how much the hospital has grown.
“When we built what was this great hospital back in 1985, we hoped to have room to care for 12,000 dogs, cats and small animals a year,” he recalled. “Nobody would have imagined then that we’d be caring for 34,000 patients a year…”
While Rentko and Bezhentseva shared what a positive effect the renovation has had, Kochevar shared how the improvements will have a far-reaching impact on animals. She said that they would not only help the animal patients, they would also help animals that benefit from trials conducted there, and they would help animals cared for by Cummings School graduates. She noted that they would also enhance the happiness and well-being of the animals’ human families because, she said, “so many of us depend upon the love of our animals and vice versa.”
Monaco noted that, in addition to enriching the compassionate care of animals and the future achievements of alumni, the renovation would also affect people who benefit from the Cummings School’s “efforts to advance the understanding of disease.”
“The improvements that we’re witnessing today at the Foster Hospital really demonstrate the value that the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center represents as an advanced treatment and education center for small and large animals alike,” he said.
One animal lover and her family left an indelible imprint on the renovation. Merrilyn Delano Marsh donated a sculpture to the hospital. The sculpture, “Animal Lover,” was chosen from a book of Marsh’s casts, and it was based on an experience Marsh had when she brought a cat (without a carrier) to a veterinarian for the first time, and the cat climbed on her head to get away from a dog. Her son, George E. Marsh Jr., an architect and principal at Payette, the architectural design firm that worked on the building, said that it was “kind of cool” that he, his mother and his father, who graduated from Tufts University, all share a connection to Tufts.
He also said the design for the expansion included making the hospital “a beacon on Westboro Road” in the form of a lighted glass box.
“People are all stressed out. They’re bringing their dog to the emergency room at 10:30 p.m. or 2 in the morning, and they see a glass box, and they go ‘Well, I guess that’s where to go,’” Marsh noted. “So, the idea was to do a beacon, and it’s a beacon of hope for veterinary care.”