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Unique collaboration benefits equine emergency and critical care services at Equine Medical Center

Dr. Emily Schafer, Shelley Duke, Dr. Michael Erskine, and Phil Duke
From left: Dr. Emily Schaefer, Shelley Duke, Dr. Michael Erskine, and Phil Duke at the Dukes' home in Middleburg, Virginia, on Feb. 11, 2020. Photo by Andy Mann, Virginia Tech.

Emily Schaefer, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC), is completing a fellowship in equine emergency and critical care by way of a unique collaboration with The Ohio State University's (OSU) College of Veterinary Medicine.

Spanning three years, the fellowship training occurs monthly on-site at both veterinary hospitals, providing Schaefer with advanced formal training led by American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (E/CC) board-certified veterinarians.

"The collaboration between Virginia Tech and The Ohio State University is imperative because it expands on the experience and expertise available at the EMC," said Schaefer. "The OSU fellowship is a formal training program under the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, which results in board certification in this specialty. In order to achieve this board certification, one must be trained by other veterinarians within that specialty."

While the EMC's medicine and surgery specialists have the ability to successfully treat equine emergencies, the center does not currently have an E/CC board-certified specialist among its faculty clinicians.

The more-advanced and targeted E/CC instruction led by OSU equine and small animal specialists — who often hold dual board certifications in either medicine or surgery and E/CC — will train Schaefer to recognize the nuances of a patient's critical condition and its treatment in order to improve outcome and patient care.

Remaining in her clinical position at the EMC between training months enables Schaefer not only to apply up-to-date and newly acquired skills and techniques to emergency cases, but also to advance the assessment and support of critically ill horses under her care. In addition, Schaefer's training will directly benefit veterinary students under her tutelage at the EMC.

"By bringing that training and expertise back 'home' to the EMC, we can expand our knowledge base in providing care to our patients and training to our residents, interns, and students," Schaefer said.

Generous sponsorship from EMC Advisory Council Vice Chair Shelley Duke and her husband, Phil, made this unique fellowship possible.

"I am thrilled to contribute to the care of our equine patients in northern Virginia and am very grateful to the Dukes for supporting this endeavor," Schaefer said. "Mrs. Duke understands the critical nature of emergency veterinary care and the ever-changing new knowledge and information in the field. Providing veterinary care to horses in an emergency or critical setting has been my main professional interest since starting practice almost 10 years ago. This fellowship allows me to further target these professional goals and bring new information and skills to horses in urgent medical need."

The Dukes' committed support of this specialized training well illustrates EMC's ongoing mission to provide outstanding care to its equine patients. "None of this would be possible without donors like Mrs. and Mr. Duke who share the EMC's passion and constant drive to improve patient care," said Schaefer.

A Pennsylvania native, Schaefer graduated cum laude with a B.S. in biology from Saint Joseph's University and went on to earn a doctor of veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. She then completed an internship at The Ohio State University.

Schaefer spent three years at a large equine practice in southeastern Pennsylvania before advancing her training with a residency in large animal internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. During this time, her research on equine coronavirus was recognized with the 2017 Resident Research Award from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Schaefer joined the EMC's internal medicine team in 2018.