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US college introduces therapy dogs to reduce medical students’ stress

dog dogs
Cuddling a dog makes everything better. Source: Shutterstock.com

Finals are a stressful time for all students. But medical students infamously get the brunt of it. From crazy schedules to gruelling final exams, medics are notoriously stressed. This is where therapy dogs come in…

Lucky medical students at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) had the joy of meeting Clue and Sprint along with other lovable dogs last week.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” said Jessica Lewis, HWCOM’s associate director of the Panther Learning Communities (PLC). “When we heard FIU [Florida International University] main was doing Dog Days for finals week, we arranged to have therapy dogs brought here a couple of days.”

It was a popular event, with 70 medics turning up to soak in the love Clue was giving.

One student, Oscar Hernandez, was having an awful week and claimed it “made a huge difference”. Hernandez’s dog had sadly passed away just the day before, and the day before that he had been in a demanding exam.

“It was nice to see HWCOM brought us a therapy dog,” he told News FIU.

The following day, the students were visited by Sprint, a five-year-old Border Collie.

“It’s really nice to relax and think about something else even for just a little while,” first-year medic Amy-Morgan Mycoff, told News FIU. “He’s adorable and probably smarter than us.”

Sprint impressed many students when he showed off his tricks and excitable energy.

Pupils all reacted in different ways, with many getting down on the dog’s level. They cuddled the dogs, stroked and brushed them, and some even let the dog lick their faces. Many happily chatted to the dogs as if they were friends.

Sprint is used to all the attention. He works as a therapy dog alongside his owner’s other three pups. He regularly meets children and the elderly, but this was Sprint’s first time meeting college students.

Dale Avick, Sprint’s owner and trainer, told News FIU there is a magical reaction from all involved when they meet Sprint and her other dogs.

“It’s the smiles on the faces and the calm that comes over people when they touch the dogs,” she said.

Second-year student medic Caytlin Gallagher agreed. “Even seeing the dog happy makes everyone happy,” she said. “You don’t even have to pet the dog. Maybe its emotions transfer to us. It lightens the mood.”

The event was such a success “we’re now thinking of doing it twice a year”, Lewis said.

The PLC Wellness Program is run all year round at HWCOM and so events of this nature are a regular occurrence. Previously, students have undertaken cooking, yoga, and aroma therapy but “the dogs have been the most successful”, said Lewis.

Who knows, maybe soon therapy dogs will be cropping up on campuses all over the world.

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