“If we don’t allow students to practice, how are they going to learn?” asked Denise Clay, MD, a loyal donor and grateful client of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Clay began her relationship with the hospital ahead of moving to Virginia, when she became concerned about her dog’s corneal ulcer and wanted to provide her with the best care. “I was able to call and make an appointment before I even officially lived here. They were happy to help.”

During her first visit to the hospital, her dog Button unexpectedly had to spend the night. Clay remembers how the veterinarian and resident involved her in the process of caring for Button, checking in throughout the night.

That series of interactions introduced Clay to the hospital’s client-centric approach and to the compassionate faculty, staff, and students who see thousands of patients each year. Over the years of being a client, she would witness interactions that not only involved her and her animals, but other clients and animals as well. Because of the care and compassion she observed and experienced, Clay wanted to show her support.

“I know that there are animals that need care and the owners can’t afford it. The school needs the money to do research, the students need it too…It’s time to give back.”

As a family doctor, Clay believes in the teaching hospital model. “You’re getting at least two different people with two different perspectives,” she said. Students engage with clients from the initial consultation to the at-home care instructions, which provides experience vital to their veterinary careers and allows clients to interact with the best and brightest upcoming veterinarians.

When it was time for her to make the first gift, she knew just where to put the gift to make the most impact—the hospital. She wanted to help it thrive, and she continues to support the hospital today. “When you find something you love, you need to support it—it will grow.”