Students in Shelter Medicine


Veterinary students at the University of Illinois will receive insight about this new specialty inside the classroom and out. Our service offers various elective courses, rotations, and community outreach opportunities that provide students with hands-on training while helping animals in need.


VCM 626 Shelter Medicine I: This is an introductory elective course for first-, second-, and third-year students that uses the Association of Shelter Veterinarians Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters as the textbook. This is a great course to gain insight into the unique shelter setting. It also serves as a prerequisite for the more advanced VCM 657 Shelter Medicine II (offered in the third year). Course will foster veterinarian participation in community service and encourage personal responsibility in the area of animal welfare.

VCM 657 Shelter Medicine II: Traditionally, the focus of companion animal veterinary training has been on the health of individual animals. In shelters, large numbers of animals share common sources of air, food, water, living space and caretaker attention, increasing stress and facilitating disease transmission and the development of behavior problems. The health and welfare of the population influences the health and welfare of all individuals and vice versa. Advanced training in the field of Shelter Animal Medicine is intended to create a pool of well-informed veterinarians that will become an important resource for shelter managers nationwide. It is also hoped that this course will foster veterinarian participation in community service and encourage personal responsibility in the area of animal welfare.

VM 612 – 616:The shelter medicine rotation on campus takes place under the direction of the director of the Shelter Medicine program. It is unique as students will have the opportunity to travel to different shelters or rescues and practice surgeries commonly performed in a shelter environment, as well as learn principles of shelter medicine.

Our goal is for students to be able to perform spay neuter surgeries without supervision, maintain good medical records, evaluate and treat community medicine cases with the aid of diagnostic tests typically found in shelters, and gain insight to the unique shelter setting. This includes, but is not limited to: learning preventative care protocols for homeless animals, housing considerations, and performing medical rounds for large populations. Each rotation also includes didactic rounds composed of either a journal club or a shelter medicine-focused  webinar.

It is expected that students have a thorough understanding of the pertinent anatomy, and have reviewed the provided materials by the instructors prior to the start of the rotation. Additionally, students are asked to keep a log of their surgeries and medical cases, including the surgical times. Successful completion of the rotation is dependent on students submitting an accurate and complete log. Students may choose to do a rotation in Chicago at the Anti-Cruelty Society or in town at the Champaign County Humane Society for credit as well.

VM 617 Advanced Shelter Medicine Professional Development Module: This experience will give students who have completed the U of I Shelter Medicine rotation the opportunity to advance their skills and expand their knowledge of the discipline. Students will gain additional surgical experience and have primary care of community medicine cases under the direct supervision of shelter medicine faculty. Additionally, the Professional Development Module will allow students the opportunity to train in advanced shelter medicine procedures, notably High-Quality, High-Volume Spay/Neuter (HQHVSN) techniques and pediatric sterilization techniques that are necessary for students interested in pursuing the discipline of shelter medicine. Students will spend time with the medical staff working on infectious disease prevention and control protocols and will present a brief educational seminar on a topic of interest in the area of shelter medicine.

Community Cat Days

Through the generous support of Best Friends Animal Society, students can perform spay neuter surgeries, vaccinations, microchips, and ear tips under the direct supervision of veterinary faculty to neighborhood cats. This is not just a greatly needed service for the surrounding communities, but also helps shape tomorrow’s veterinary professionals by providing essential instruction.

Other opportunities

Veterinary students with an interest in shelter medicine are encouraged to join the Illinois Student Chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. The student club works closely with our service and co-organize vaccine clinics, spay neuter projects, shelter education seminars, lunch lectures, and wet labs.


Visiting fourth-year veterinary students can spend two weeks in the Shelter Medicine Program taking the VM 612-616 shelter medicine rotation.

Visiting Practitioner Program

Private practitioners interested in learning more about shelter medicine and High-Quality, High-Volume Spay-Neuter, and pediatric sterilization can spend time with the Shelter Medicine Program learning those techniques. For details, see: