Happy 40th Anniversary, TVMF!

Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation Celebrates 40 Years of Impact

In 2018, the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) marks a milestone anniversary as we celebrate 40 years of service and impact statewide. The Foundation was established in 1978 by a group of veterinarians who had a vision to care for animals, provide free educational programming for the pet-owning public and lend support to the veterinary profession, current professionals and aspiring students. Since its establishment in 1978, TVMF, a 501(c)3 organization that serves as the charitable and philanthropic arm of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), has developed robust program offerings that give life to our mission to care for animals, serve the pet-owning community of Texas and advance the veterinary profession.

40 years of commitment. 40 years of service. 40 years of impact.

Today, TVMF program offerings include:

  • TVMF PALS program, a partnership with Meals on Wheels organizations to provide veterinary care completely free of charge to the pets of Meals on Wheels clients. Since its inception in Austin in 2012, the TVMF PALS program has expanded to Dallas, Houston, Bryan/College Station and Abilene and currently serves more than 400 pets a year.
  • Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grants, which offer financial assistance for qualifying families in need of medical or surgical intervention for their beloved pets. These one-time grants aim to preserve the human-animal bond by funding life-saving or life-changing veterinary care to a pet that might otherwise be relinquished, euthanized or endure prolonged suffering.
  • Disaster relief grants to assist veterinarians who provide medical care to animal victims during or after any disaster. In the fall of 2017, TVMF provided financial assistance to many veterinarians along the Texas coast as they treated and housed animals injured or displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Supporting veterinary students by providing first-year students with new stethoscopes to use during their education, offering scholarship awards for summer research projects, sponsoring veterinary student activities and providing emergency grants to students who experience an unforeseen crisis or expense during their degree program.

“What we have built with the partnership of our friends and donors spans four decades in the great state of Texas, and we want to extend our sincere thanks for their belief in our mission,” TVMF President Dr. Chad Harris said. “We are deeply proud of the partnership we have built with community members and veterinary professionals throughout Texas.”

Forty years is a significant amount of time, and much has changed since TVMF first opened its doors. As such, TVMF periodically reviews and revamps programs to meet the changing needs of the people and animals served through these programs. For example, the Texas State Animal Response Team (TXSART) was a TVMF program formed in 2006 to better address animal emergencies within the state. While TVMA trained and prepared its members for animal disaster response, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought the realization that the veterinarians of Texas could not single-handedly meet all the needs resulting from a wide-scale animal emergency. As a result, TXSART was formed. TXSART brought together governmental and nonprofit organizations to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters affecting pets and agricultural animals. Activities included disaster preparedness education, coordination of available statewide resources and state-level response.

For several years, TXSART held an annual “Animals in Disasters” summit in San Antonio, presented at various Emergency Management Association conferences and responded to disasters when needed. However, as the demands related to TXSART continued to grow and required more time and attention from TVMF’s leadership and staff—often to the detriment of other Foundation programs—the TVMF Board of Trustees made the difficult decision to dissolve TXSART in 2011. Many of TXSART’s assets were donated to other veterinary organizations involved in disaster relief. Today, TVMF continues its support in the wake of natural disasters and emergencies by standing ready at all times to assist veterinarians who provide medical care to animal victims during or after any disaster through disaster relief grants.

Forging ahead, TVMF remains committed to expanding mission-driven programs and services that ensure those we serve are not simply surviving but thriving as well. The following programs are evidence that TVMF’s priorities rest firmly on a foundation to care for animals, educate the pet-owning public and provide meaningful support to veterinary professionals and DVM students.

From Good Samaritans to Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grants
In 2007, TVMF began exploring ways to have a direct impact on the health and welfare of animals in Texas. At that time, TVMF founded the Good Samaritan partnership, which aimed to support emergency care for sick or injured domestic animals with no known owner and, in the process, educate the public about the plight of lost and abandoned animals as well as the causes and scope of the problem. When the program stalled due to a lack of interest and applicants, the Board of Trustees decided it was time to re-evaluate. Soon after, they were touched by the story of a young soldier and his canine partner, which then inspired a new direction for the Good Samaritan program.

On December 6, 2010, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Colton Rusk was killed by sniper fire in Afghanistan. Eli, the bomb-sniffing dog assigned to Rusk in his post as a military dog handler, threw his body on his fallen handler and stayed with him until other Marines arrived at the scene. Because Eli and Colton’s relationship so beautifully exemplified the strength of the human-animal bond, TVMF wanted to further recognize the service of both Eli and Colton by creating a veterinary grant program named in their honor. The Good Samaritan partnership found new life when TVMF launched the Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grant program in early 2014 to help extend veterinary care to those who may need it most.

Since its inception, TVMF has provided 18 grants through this program. For Nathan Y., a Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grant made all the difference when Nathan’s Labrador, Dante, fell seriously ill. Nathan was worried; not only was Dante a treasured companion, but for the last two years, Dante had been acting as Nathan’s service dog. When testing revealed that Dante’s liver and kidneys were in severe distress, Nathan’s anxiety only increased. How would he, a U.S. Army veteran whose sole income is VA disability payments, afford the expensive treatments necessary to save his friend’s life?

Dante’s veterinarians approached TVMF to ask for help in covering some of the cost of Dante’s treatment. TVMF was happy to help and granted Nathan a Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grant. With the assistance provided by TVMF, Dante received his much-needed treatment and recovered to resume his work as Nathan’s service dog and companion.

From Woofstock at Waterloo to TexVetPets
In 2009, TVMF hosted Woofstock at Waterloo in Austin. Woofstock was a free public event that honored Texas residents and their furry companions while bringing awareness to owner education programs that provide Texas communities with knowledge and information on caring for and protecting their pets, which is one facet of the multi-pronged TVMF mission. The exciting celebration of the human-animal bond within our communities brought out more than 3,500 pet owners, veterinarians, animal shelters and special interest groups from all over the state to celebrate our furry family companions.

Today, events like Woofstock are less attended as pet owners seek out insight and pet education through online sources. Information needs to be a touch or swipe away for the busy, on-the-go pet owner. TVMF adapted to this change while remaining consciously committed to its mission of providing the public with knowledge and information on caring for and protecting their pets, livestock and wildlife. Now this educational initiative is driven through TexVetPets.org, the veterinary professional-written and peer-reviewed pet health website that houses more than 250 articles on a range of pet health conditions in a variety of species. Pet owners can now access helpful, relevant educational resources at the simple touch or swipe of their finger or mouse at any time of day.

TAMU-CVM Student Support
Over the years, TVMF has remained committed to supporting students at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (TAMU-CVM) through awards, emergency grants and sponsoring educational lectures. Additionally, TVMF provides all incoming first-year veterinary students with a stethoscope to use during their studies.

TVMF was pleased to award the first emergency student grant in 1991. Although, the number of grants given since the program’s inception is unknown, the impact these grants have on students is long-lasting. For students like Cade Luckett, a grant can make the difference between finishing their degree on time or having to take time off from school.

In the fall of 2016, during Cade’s third year of studies, his wife, Katelyn, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Faced with mounting medical bills, including travel back and forth to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Cade and Katelyn were unsure how they would pay for her treatments. TVMF awarded Cade with an emergency student grant to help defray the cost of their expenses so Katelyn could receive the treatment she needed while Cade continued his studies at TAMU-CVM. Cade graduated in May 2018, and he and Katelyn are happy to share that Katelyn’s recent checkups have been clear. They have moved to Muleshoe, Texas, and are loving their new community.

TVMF also believes in the importance of teaching veterinary students the value of giving back to the communities they will call home. As such, veterinary students at TAMU-CVM are the primary volunteers for the TVMF PALS program in Bryan/College Station. Fourth-year students pick up the pets from clients’ homes, obtain histories of the pets, examine the pets with an attending veterinarian and then deliver pets home after bathing them. Every Christmas, veterinary students make and deliver Christmas stockings to TVMF PALS clients like Mr. Washington (pictured) and his dog, Blackie.

Memorial Gift Program
Pets hold a very special place in our hearts and lives, and pet owners are often devastated when they experience the loss of a pet. Some have watched their families grow with a pet over the years and often consider these companion animals as members of the family. Think of all the Christmas ornaments and gift ideas that are geared toward pet-owning families. In some situations, this furry or scaly companion may have helped someone through a difficult time or helped save their life. As we know now thanks to numerous scientific studies, companion animals can have profoundly positive impacts on their humans’ physical and emotional health. So when a pet owner loses their companion animal, that loss is felt deeply.

Established in the mid-1980s, the TVMF Memorial Gift Program offers veterinarians and the public a meaningful way to memorialize companion animals by making a donation in a pet’s name to TVMF. These contributions are an opportunity to celebrate the human-animal bond represented by the love shared between the departed pet and their grieving human family members.

“The loss of a beloved pet is often devastating for clients,” said Nancy Turner, DVM, a TVMF Memorial Gift Program participant. “Sometimes it is difficult to find the right words at the right time to bring them comfort, and often clients grieve for much longer than we know. The Memorial Gift Program allows me to continue to show support for my clients while they mourn and often gives the client the feeling that something good can come out of a terrible loss.”

In the summer of 2012, TVMF launched its online Pet Memorial Wall as a way for pet owners to celebrate the special bond between humans and animals and pay tribute to those pets whose memories lives on. The Pet Memorial Wall serves as a location where memories are preserved, respected and honored.

“It was such a thoughtful gesture from the veterinarian, and I told him and his office as much in a thank-you note,” said Jennifer Barrera, a contributor to the Pet Memorial Wall. “Thank you, TVMF, for coming up with such a wonderful idea! What an easy way to help ease someone’s pain from losing a pet while doing good with a charitable contribution at the same time.”

The Next 40 Years
As TVMF’s 40thanniversary celebration draws to a close, TVMF President Dr. Chad Harris reflected, “It’s hard to say how much TVMF has helped people over the past 40 years, and I can’t imagine what we’re going to do in the next 40.”

TVMF remains committed to serving the veterinary community, supporting veterinary students and serving as a resource for pet owners for many decades to come. Thank you for making our first 40 years so memorable. You are the reason we do what we do, and we are thankful for each and every one of you.