One-stop service in Seattle provides valuable clinical experience for Vet Med students
Even though Grace Stroklund (above right) works as a line cook 40 hours or more a week in a Seattle restaurant, she cannot afford a permanent place to rest her head. Instead, she often crashes on a friend’s couch or lives out of her car. Only 28, Stroklund has lived half her life without a place to live.
But the one thing she does have is her 6-year-old male Jack Russell terrier mix—Nugget—who greets Stroklund with love and a lot of tail wagging, wherever she happens to be staying.
Recently, Nugget was exposed to foxtail grass seeds, notorious for embedding into dogs’ skin and causing infections, so Stroklund took him to an emergency veterinary clinic.
“If I had waited any longer, he might have gotten really bad sepsis or an infection,” Stroklund said.
Nugget’s emergency visit at a private clinic, however, was $700.
“That was exorbitant for us,” said Stroklund, who at the time co-owned Nugget with her ex-boyfriend. “We started second guessing if we could continue to have him in our lives while we were living in a camper and trying to get ourselves to a new place in life.”
Fortunately, Stroklund found the One Health Clinic in downtown Seattle, a one-stop veterinary and human healthcare provider that serves young people, and their pets, as they struggle with homelessness.
A safe place to receive care
One Health Clinic is a unique collaboration among several partners: Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine; the University of Washington Center for One Health Research; Neighborcare Health, a federally qualified community healthcare center; and University District Street Medicine Club, a non-profit that provides volunteer opportunities to UW students pursuing degrees in medicine, nursing, social work, public health, and pharmacy.
The clinic is located in New Horizon Ministries, which provides transitional housing and a safe place for young people experiencing homelessness and makes it possible for the clinic to better serve them.
Gina Meyers ’85, a member of the WSU Foundation’s Board of Directors, is the clinic’s current primary donor. Her generosity makes it possible for One Health to continue to stay open and help the community’s unhoused young people and their pets.
“It’s so important that the clinic is here to offer veterinary care and health care to people dealing with homelessness,” said Meyers.
One Health clinic has also received support from numerous partners including New Horizon Ministries (facility space), Merck (medical drug donations), Banfield Foundation (financial support for veterinary medical equipment and medication), and Pet Smart Charities (financial support for salaries and supplies), as well as other individual donors.
This is a cause close to Meyer’s heart, as she is committed to helping these young people in Seattle. She recently spent a day at the clinic as a volunteer, wanting to see for herself how One Health is serving these young people and their pets and how they might reach more young people during this difficult time in their lives.
“I’m so gratified to be a part of this,” she said. “And very proud that WSU is helping to meet this need by forging these partnerships with UW and Neighborcare Health to do so.”
Gaining “cultural humility”
Through One Health Clinic, WSU veterinary students and UW health-focused students gain hands-on experience providing physical examinations, assessing the health needs of pets and people, and communicating with clients.
WSU veterinarian Dr. Katie Kuehl (in photo above, far left), who’s overseen One Health Clinic since its inception in 2018, said both the pets and their owners would likely go without care if the clinic was not available—and WSU veterinary students would miss out on unique clinical experiences and valuable lessons of helping unhoused neighbors and pets in need.
“As a veterinarian, I know veterinary care is expensive but extremely important and necessary for our pets, so it feels good to give back in this way to those that struggle to access care,” Kuehl said. “At the same time, the clinic leaves lasting effects on our students, from their experience with interprofessional delivery of health care to trauma-informed communication, not to mention some cultural humility.”
During a follow-up appointment at One Health Clinic, Nugget was assessed as fully recovered. At the same time Stroklund visited with a nurse practitioner from Neighborcare Health to address Stroklund’s own healthcare needs. She was also connected with a graduate student social worker to talk about her work life and the challenges she is facing as an unhoused person.
“I really don’t think I’d be working 40 hours a week and seeking help if I didn’t have Nugget to come back to,” Stroklund said. “Having him has pushed me to want to see what comfort and stability look like.”
Meanwhile, Stroklund carries on with her life, hoping that things get better for her, but until they do, she’s glad One Health is there for her and Nugget.
“It’s hard to find connection when you’re living on the street,” said Stroklund. “One Health understands the connection between a person and their pet, especially for those of us who are homeless or have been traumatized. It’s an extremely different clinical setting than I’ve ever experienced—people are there to help.”
Join the effort to improve the lives of young people facing homelessness and their pets by making a donation to the One Health Clinic.