Jane Shaw was only two years old when her life calling became quite clear.
“When my mother would put me to sleep, I would kiss every stuffed animal in my crib. I think it was an early sign of my love, respect and propensity towards animals,” Shaw said.
This, combined with her lifelong passion for animal rights, foretold of the veterinary career path she would later choose, she said.
Shaw is an assistant professor of epidemiology and communication and director of the Argus Institute, an organization that offers support for people who suffer from pet loss.
In July, she was awarded the Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award, for which her colleagues nominated her. Shaw accepted the award, which recognizes veterinarians who show leadership in programs that bring people and animals together, and in gratitude, she reflected on her original muses.
“The human-animal bond that I’ve had with my own dogs has been inspiration for this award,” she said.
Shaw said a strong partnership between the vet and the client results in better overall decision-making and healthcare for the animal. The client is the expert on his or her pet, Shaw said, and the better the vet understands the client’s relationship with the animal, the better the vet can serve them.
Shaw grew up in New Jersey and attended Michigan State University for her veterinary degree. She then went to the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada for her doctorate in epidemiology. Later, she discovered a love for teaching when she accepted a job as an instructor at Cornell University.
When the position as director of the Argus Institute at CSU opened up, Shaw quickly applied for the position, which she calls her dream job.
“CSU has always respected the art in being a veterinarian and the importance of social skills,” she said.
Shaw’s students spend 60 total training hours in veterinary communication over the course of their junior and senior years at the Veterinary Hospital.
The students meet with professional actors who act as test clients. This allows the students to work in real-life situations and helps in developing effective communication skills between the vet and the client.
This work also provides further insight into “how communication impacts clients’ acceptance of recommendations,” Shaw said.
And colleagues say Shaw has fostered an environment where students are learning the art of veterinary medicine better than ever before at CSU.
“Jane has brought a depth and breadth to our communication curriculum that wasn’t there before she arrived,” said Gail Bishop, a program coordinator who works under Shaw. “She took us not only to the next level, but levels beyond where we were.”
Bishop said interest in veterinary science has grown by leaps and bounds, and that the need for experts in the field is increasing at the same rate.
“The need for continued support in the clinic or on the hospital floor has increased every year and undoubtedly will continue to do so,” she said in an e-mail interview. “The human-animal bond is strong, and that relationship is sacred for many.”
“She walks her talk and has great passion for veterinary medicine while also maintaining a good work-life balance, which is so important in this field,” said Del Rae Heiser, the program coordinator for the Argus institute.
As for future plans, Shaw has been invited to speak at various seminars around the globe, including the upcoming Communication Summit conference in Banff, Alberta in November.
She has also been invited to speak as the keynote speaker the annual Animal Communication Conference in Australia in July of 2009.
Staff writer Andrea Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.