Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

USU Facility Dogs Help De-stress USU Med Students

Image of A dog interacts with students. Shetland, one of USU med school’s two facility dogs, gets attention and provides some fun interactions with med school students. (Photo: Courtesy of Kameha Bell, assistant dean, Well-Being Program, USU School of Medicine Office of Student Affairs)

Daily demands on students at the Uniformed Services University’s F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine can be stressful.

That’s where Shetland and Grover, USU’s designated facility dogs, come into play – literally.

The Hebert School of Medicine is the first and only medical school with a full-time complement of facility dogs.

Shetland, a yellow Lab; and Grover, a black Lab, often wander through the student lounge, library, or school courtyard seeking out hugs or getting belly rubs from students as part of their official duties to comfort, de-stress, and calm them.

While Shetland is calm and dignified, Grover is a bit more energetic and goofy. Each brings his own personality to student interactions.

Having the dogs “builds community and adds a little levity,” said Kameha Bell, assistant dean of the Office of Student Affairs’ Well-Being Program.

Bell leads the facility dog program at the medical school and is Shetland’s guardian.

“The ultimate goal is to support the well-being of our community,” she said.

Dogs on a Mission

Shetland and Grover’s mission is to promote wellness on campus as well as the benefits and responsible use of animal-assisted interventions in health care, referred to broadly as pet therapy.

Bell and highly trained student handlers spend part of their time with the dogs at events, such as university blood drives, where they explain the differences between service dogs, facility dogs, and companion animals.

Facility dogs like Shetland and Grover are service dogs trained to perform a variety of physical tasks, such as providing emotional and physical support for veterans with disabilities, low-vision, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

As facility dogs, they also provide comfort and affection in a variety of settings to help improve physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

Before he was selected to be USU’s first facility dog in 2019, Shetland trained for four months with an accredited service-training organization. He then completed several more weeks of training to ensure he was acclimated to his new home.

Grover underwent the same training regimens and was recently inducted into service.

Stressors

Extra stress can come at exam time or in preparation for the medical school’s Bushmaster simulated deployment practicum at the end of the four-year program.

It’s then that Shetland and Grover get reinforcement from the Red Cross Therapy Dogs, said Navy Ensign Kimberly Dodd, a med student and one of USU’s facility dog student handlers.

“If someone feels like they might not do as well on that exam, we have the dogs there for social support,” said Dodd.

Having all the facility dogs from USU and Walter Reed together “really brings up the mood on exam days when students need that extra support,” she added.

Other military hospitals and clinics have facility dogs to support patients and staff. These include:

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas

Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

• Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia

Shetland & Grover’s Impact

Shetland and Grover are ambassadors of the benefits facility animals can bring.

Their impact at USU is primarily “joy,” said Marine Col. (Dr.) Catherine Kimball-Eayrs, commandant of the medical school.

It’s also “the peace and calm that the dogs can bring” to stressed-out medical students.

“The students start to relax and have fun with the dogs,” she said. “To watch the joy of that interaction, and how it brings some peace and calm to folks’ lives in a time where none of the schools -- medical school, nursing school, any other -- is easy, is very rewarding.”

A second major impact, said Kimball-Eayrs, is that students learn the role of animal-assisted interventions.

“Our students are exposed to facility dogs and understand their role in a community,” she said. “This helps them prepare for when they come across facility dogs at other military hospitals, clinics, and programs.”

And “when [USU students] are future health care providers, they can help spread the knowledge and support and, in the right situation, maybe get a dog placed with a service member who could really benefit from it,” she said.

Shetland & Grover - USU Facility Dogs

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Jan 26, 2024

Conquering Winter Blues: A Personal Triumph

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlin Castillo, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs journeyman, poses for a portrait illustrating seasonal affective disorder at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 17, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Kaitlin Castilo)

When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins to slow, a silent snowfall signals the start of another isolated winter night. This is sometimes known as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

Article Around MHS
Jan 12, 2024

Love, Death, and Regrowth

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley, a perianesthesia technician assigned to the 673d Surgical Operations Squadron, poses for a portrait at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Briley uses her personal experiences to help advocate for improved mental health, suicide awareness, and resilience amongst service members. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley met the love of her life shortly after arriving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, her first duty station. After her husband died by suicide, her path to wellness wasn’t a quick or easy one, but she was able to find support in the people and resources around her.

Article Around MHS
Oct 26, 2023

One Team, One Mission: Nurses Supplement Active Duty Medical Personnel at Ramstein Air Base

U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation technicians and a nurse gather for a pre-brief before clinical simulator training at Ramstein Air Base

Two mental health nurses assigned to the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron trained with the Deployment Transition Center and the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from July 13 to Aug. 5, 2023, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. During that time, U.S. Army Maj. Matthew Waller and U.S. Army Maj. Anthony Niederriter brought the skills and perspectives of ...

Article Around MHS
Oct 17, 2023

Military Life is Stressful; Depression Screening Can Bring Help

Feeling down, hopeless, tired, irritable, or having trouble concentrating? When you feel more than just sad, getting screened and seeking support and treatment for depression can help reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms. Many resources are available for service members, family members, civilians, retirees, and veterans. (Illustration by Joyce Kopatch/ Defense Centers for Public Health)

Military members and their families experience unique stressors associated with military life. This stress may influence psychological and social well-being and contribute to behavioral health symptoms, which can include depression. During the annual Periodic Health Assessment, service members are screened for depression as well as deployment-related ...

Article Around MHS
Oct 2, 2023

Suicide Care Prevention and Research Initiative at the Uniformed Services University Builds Interventions to Reduce Military Suicide

The Suicide Care, Prevention, and Research Initiative provides support for chaplains, spouses, military leadership, and other gatekeepers of service members. The program builds, scientifically tests, and implements suicide prevention programs by incorporating knowledge gained from service members who have died by suicide as well as those with suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors. (U.S. Army photo by Michele Wiencek)

While numerous programs work to develop strategies to lessen the national suicide rate, a standout in the military community is the Suicide Care, Prevention, and Research Initiative at the Uniformed Services University.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: September 28, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery