Building Bridges to Wellness and Stability

A family receiving care for their kitten.

I’m a retired nurse, and my service animal needed supplies. If I was to do everything I did today, it would have been so costly. At this clinic, I was able to give a better quality of life to my service animal and I’m so grateful.

A One Health Clinic client

On September 24, One Health Clinic, Doney Coe Pet Clinic, Seattle Animal Shelter, and Seattle Humane hosted two wellness clinics in Seattle. During these special clinics, clients’ companion animals received veterinary care which, in turn, enhances the entire family’s health and well-being. As in previous years, this year’s clinics were held in honor of World Rabies Day, which was September 28.

A young man in a colorful hoodie holds his husky pup in his arms like a baby.

“We recognize the bonds between the people and pets we serve. One Health Clinic asks how we can keep you and your pet healthy and help you find a more peaceful level of stability,” said Christie Cotterill, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations and One Health Clinic administrator.

Launched in 2018, One Health Clinic is a partnership between the University of Washington Center for One Health Research and Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The clinic was established to provide integrated human and veterinary health care for people with pets who are unsheltered or have low income.

“A key part of the care we provide is rabies preventive vaccination,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, University of Washington human health care director. “In this way, the One Health Clinic is pioneering innovative ways to prevent rabies among the most disadvantaged populations in the U.S. and globally.”

Offered twice a month, the recurring One Health Clinics are an extension of human health care services offered through the Neighborcare Health Youth Clinic at New Horizons Shelter. University of Washington health science students volunteer their services through University District Street Medicine.

Veterinary care is provided by WSU’s DVM students under the supervision of Dr. Katie Kuehl, One Health Clinic veterinary director and assistant professor in shelter medicine at WSU. 

The clinic has been amazing. We’ve struggled so hard to maintain our financial situation and continue to have our dog be seen and healthy. I’ve gone without food to be able to take him to the vet before, you know?

A One Health Clinic client

In addition to vaccinations, One Health Clinic veterinary care includes wellness check-ups and other primary care services. Spay, neuter, and other surgeries are not performed at the clinic. However, referrals are available through a well-established collaboration with animal welfare groups across the county that provide these services at free or reduced costs. Human medical care includes treatment for illness, injury, or ongoing conditions, along with vaccinations, STI/HIV care, and birth control. Referrals for care not provided at the clinic are also available.

“A unique aspect of our care is our ability to work and communicate interprofessionally to identify and address concerns of people and animals in families,” Kuehl said. “Sometimes people don’t want to talk about their own health but will share important information about their well-being with the veterinary team.”

A father and daughter with their tiny chihuahua mix dog as it is receiving care.

One Health Clinic professionals recognize that when people and their pets receive medical and veterinary care in a side-by-side setting, the health of the whole family benefits. These reduced barriers to care are key.

“At one clinic, a woman came in to get care for her young adult female cat. In addition to providing vaccines and preventative care, we diagnosed her cat as pregnant,” Kuehl said. “Our client was overjoyed about the idea of becoming a ‘cat grandma’ and we discussed the needs of her cat – and the kittens once they were born.

“She let us know she wanted to focus on her cat and soon-to-be-larger kitten family. So, she visited our nurse practitioner’s office to get a long-acting contraceptive, so she wouldn’t become a mother while caring for her feline companion. A month later, the cat gave birth to six healthy, adorable kittens and our client found great homes for them. In most clinics, you can’t provide this type of comprehensive care that considers the needs of the entire family and delivers that care in one location.”

During the past two years, One Health Clinic professionals developed a program to share their vision of comprehensive care. Their online toolkit is a guide for similar One Health efforts on a national level.

This initiative provides resources for health care professionals across the country to design integrated clinics, so they can also offer health care access to underserved groups. The free toolkit assists organizations at all stages of clinic development – from initial meetings to logistics. The One Health Clinic team also offers support to fellow health care professionals, as they pilot their clinics using the toolkit as a model.

One Health Clinic’s continued growth and outreach initiatives are the positive outcomes of partnerships cultivated across industries and organizations.

“Only together can we be successful, and we’re successful because of collaboration,” Cotterill said. “We came together with a shared vision that evolves to meet needs as they’re discovered, while we work together toward a broader national impact.”

During the past three years, the Banfield Foundation, Merck Animal Health, and PetSmart Charities have been partners in that evolution.

In 2019, the Banfield Foundation provided initial funding for the One Health Clinic. This year, the organization contributed support toward rabies and flea medications for the clinics, including the September event.

Merck Animal Health has also been a supporter since the launch of the One Health Clinic by providing vaccines and medications. PetSmart Charities has provided funding for the veterinary team, research projects, and development of the online toolkit.

“Approaching healthcare through a One Health lens is defined by partnerships,” Kuehl said. “By leveraging each other’s strengths, we provide the best possible care to our patients whether they have two legs or four.

“In this same way, we need industry partners, such as the Banfield Foundation, Merck, and PetSmart Charities, because they work with a wide range of organizations and approach access to veterinary care with a different lens than ours. We learn from their successes and institutional expertise to further benefit the community we serve.” To support the One Health Clinic, visit us online.