Erin Phoenix (B.S ‘11, DVM ’17) recently joined the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine as a veterinary instructor with the Animal Care for Education team in the small animal clinical sciences department. 

The Animal Care for Education team is responsible for the medical care and enrichment of the animals that participate in the teaching program. 

"A large part of my role is teaching in the surgery and dentistry labs, working in small groups and individual work, hands-on stuff, which is what I love. I'm also responsible for taking care of the veterinary dog colony that we use to teach and learn from,” explained Phoenix. 

Last fall, the college began partnering with local animal shelters to foster shelter dogs through the Canine Awareness and Responsibility Experience for Students (CARES) program. Working with the canine instructors, first and second year students learn dog handling, restraint techniques, and how to give physical and oral exams. 

"As students learn and grow and develop these skills, they move on to learning how to give medications, anesthesia, surgery, dentistry,” said Phoenix. "Being able to work on a live animal is so important. That type of education for a lot of the students is vital."

The CARES program is often described as a win-win for the dogs and the college: the shelter dogs get top-notch care while students get crucial, hands-on learning. 

"In my mind, it's such a service to the local community because where we live, the shelters are overburdened, so anything we can do to help is a huge win. I look forward to bringing those dogs to a safe place where they're going to be well cared for. We're going to take care of any medical issues they have, socialize them, train them a little bit, and get them ready to be part of somebody's home at the end of the process. Preparing these dogs to be part of somebody's family is such a gift."

After earning her bachelor’s in biology from Virginia Tech, Phoenix completed her DVM from the veterinary college in 2017. Following graduation, Phoenix practiced in general practice, surgery, dentistry, and emergency medicine as an associate veterinarian at clinics in northern Virginia. 

Phoenix’s new role will combine two things she’s passionate about: education and helping shelter animals.

"Learning is something that's very important to me, and I can't think of a better thing to do with my life than to teach and support students in my field—it's a hard field, and it can be really tough sometimes, but it's rewarding, and I'll do whatever I can do to create resilient, hard-working folks for our field."