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Student Spotlights

Service dogs provide medical students a well-earned study break amid finals

May 8, 2014

Over 50 IU School of Medicine students, plus plenty of faculty and staff, recently enjoyed a study break in the midst of finals, thanks to a local group that trains and places assistance service dogs with adults and children with disabilities throughout the state of Indiana.

Volunteers from the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, or ICAN, along with their cute canine companions, delivered some well-earned "pet therapy" May 2 to medical students in John Daly Student Center.

"Final exam weeks are a stressful and intense time, particularly for many first-and second-year medical students," said Kathryn E. Hodgdon, a third-year medical student and liaison for the IUSM Wellness Committee. "Therapy dogs are currently used in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and universities, and several other medical schools, including Harvard, Tufts and Yale, have made therapy dogs available to their students with positive results.

"We thought it would be a great idea to put together an event where students could take a break from their wards and exams, interact with the dogs and de-stress," she added.

Exclamations of "best day ever" and the sound of playful interactions filled the normally quiet study space as students from all levels of their medical education dropped in to meet the dogs. First-year students who had just finished exams, second-year students taking a quick break between two exams scheduled that day and third-year students on their lunch breaks from various clinical rotations were among the participants.

Many fourth-year students, whose time at IU is winding down, also dropped in simply for the chance to play with an adorable 10-week-old puppy.

In addition to the opportunity to pause amid the rigors of the end of the school year, Hodgdon pointed out the event provided students a chance to learn more about the ICAN program, including the variety of services provided by the group, as well as enjoy a healthy lunch of wraps, fresh fruit and salad.

"When students entered the room and saw all the dogs eager to play and interact, everyone's tensions, anxieties and stresses melted away instantly," Hodgdon said. "The sounds of laughter, playful banter and occasional barking helped remind all of us of the joy and love that animals help bring forth in humans."

The event was also an opportunity for students to "connect, nourish their bodies and minds and get ready to dive back into the books, boards and wards rejuvenated and refreshed," she said.

Additional collaborators on the event included the IUSM Children and Adults with Disabilities Student Interest Group.

The cost of the lunch was provided by the Office of Medical Student Affairs.

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