TVMF Volunteers Become P.A.L.S. for Pets
Thomas Palvino, DVM and Leanne Parker, DVM Donate Their Time and Skills to TVMF P.A.L.S.TVMF Volunteers Become P.A.L.S. for Pets
In 2013, the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) built on the success of the TVMF P.A.L.S. program, which was founded in 2012 as a partnership between TVMF and the Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors (P.A.L.S.) program of Meals on Wheels and More of Austin (MOWAM). This partnership provides veterinary care at no cost to clients of the P.A.L.S. program of MOWAM for the purpose of strengthening the human-animal bond by ensuring the health and welfare of animals belonging to people who are homebound, elderly or disabled.
To date, the program has been able to provide wellness exams, vaccines and preventatives medicines for more than 100 pets at no cost to the owner or veterinarian. The program is made possible by public donations and support from Merial, Idexx and Antech. TVMF recently received a $5,500 grant, which will enable us to provide additional services, such as dental cleanings, for these pets. Also, the Waco, Dallas and College Station Meals on Wheels organizations have all expressed interest in partnering with TVMF. Currently those locations are identifying their clients' needs and searching for volunteers and staff members to be a part of the partnership. TVMF will keep you posted on our progress and when we’ll be headed to your city!
Two veterinarians who have volunteered their time and expertise for the TVMF P.A.L.S. program are Thomas Palvino, DVM, and Leanne Parker, DVM. Both of these busy, dedicated veterinarians own practices in the Austin area and went the extra mile to give back to their community through the TVMF partnership with MOWAM.
Growing up in upstate New York, Dr. Palvino was surrounded by cheddar cheese, Ben & Jerry’s and all things dairy. While attending college in Vermont to get his degree in animal science, Dr. Palvino gained his first real exposure to veterinary medicine while working on dairy farms. Although he had grown up with animals and always loved animals, science and agriculture, he never really thought about becoming a veterinarian until he was in college.
“Once I realized I could do those things for a living, it became easy then, because I knew what I wanted to do," he recalled. "I just hadn’t been exposed to that or known that it was an option.”
Texas A&M ended up being the right fit for him, not only professionally but personally as well. He met a Texas girl and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Upon graduating in 2006, his Texas girl was not leaving Texas, so that led Dr. Palvino to Austin Vet Hospital.
Three years after graduating from veterinary school, he bought Austin Vet Hospital, an accomplishment he is very proud of. Bursting at the seams and practicing in a building that had been standing since the 1960s, Dr. Palvino made the decision to find a new location for his practice. His patience and tenacity paid off when a perfect location became available just a couple miles away from their current location. Dr. Palvino and his family now live and work in the same community.
“It’s neat for me to be a part of and live in the community we serve," Dr. Palvino said. "When the weather cooperates, I can ride my bike to work, and my clients can walk their dog to the clinic. It’s a great place to be.”
When TVMF asked Dr. Palvino to be a partner in the TVMF P.A.L.S. program, there was no hesitation.
“Let’s face it: Veterinarians today are asked and have to figure out who we extend charity to and where to draw the line, and what separates TVMF from other organizations is that you are serving people that not only lack the financial means but don’t have the ability to get in the car and bring their pet to the veterinarian," Dr. Palvino said. "It’s great to be a part of a program that can transport the animal for them. These people truly have a need.
“We know that the Meals on Wheels clients appreciate what we are all providing for them as we saw with this one dog, Princess, about a year ago that just looked horrible with skin that looked like an elephant," he continued. "If the paperwork had not said she was seven years old, I would have guessed she was 15. Turns out the dog was hypothyroid, an easy fix. We dispensed the meds, and when Princess came back for her check up, it turns out she was an Akita mix! We didn’t even recognize her! She’s puffy and full of hair. Oh my gosh! Is this the same dog? Did someone mess up the paperwork? We would have never known. Just a simple thing, and Princess is a completely different dog—happy, healthy and with so much hair her owners now have to shave her!”
Dr. Palvino’s experience with the TVMF P.A.L.S. program has taught him a great deal about giving back to others and his community.
“It’s easy to make a big difference," he said. "You don’t need to do a big thing to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Certainly with Princess, that was the case. It didn’t take much to make a big difference in that dog’s life and by extension probably in her owner’s life as well. No matter what you do, you should look to give back, and we happen to be in a profession where that is really easy because what we do is help the bond that is between people and their pets. If I can help that pet be healthier and help that bond, then it’s great. It makes us feel good, it makes the staff feel good, and hopefully it helps these clients as well.”
Dr. Parker, another TVMF P.A.L.S. program volunteer, grew up with a close-knit family in the Houston suburb of Clear Lake. She always knew that she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up.
“It was just no question," she recalled. "I don’t know why other than my family always instilled a sense of love and compassion for animals.”
Her decision was solidified when her Dachshund, Fritz, had back surgeries.
“It was very scary as a child, feeling helpless, but it was amazing that a vet could fix him," Dr. Parker said. "It made an impact on me that you could not only help the pet but also help the family.”
Upon graduating from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1994, Dr. Parker practiced for about two years in Texas City. She and her husband eventually found themselves in Austin, where she worked as a relief veterinarian for AM/PM Animal Hospital and a hospital in Georgetown. She loved the idea of 24-hour care and being able to provide round-the-clock care for critical patients, so she became an associate at AM/PM in 1996. In 2002, Dr. Parker bought the practice.
“Buying AM/PM, keeping it running and keeping it successful and ethical is one of my accomplishments I’m most proud of," she said. "My husband does the business, and I do the medical. We’ve worked hard to grow the practice from 10 staff members to 30, including six veterinarians. I’m proud that we have built relationships with other clinics in the area we serve. As a 24-hour hospital, it is important to me that when we see an emergency that the client returns to their primary veterinarian.”
As with Dr. Palvino and every partner veterinarian in the TVMF P.A.L.S. program, Dr. Parker did not hesitate to volunteer her time and skill for TVMF P.A.L.S.
“I wanted to be a part of this amazing partnership between TVMF and Meals on Wheels," Dr. Parker said. "Seniors in our society are often forgotten and don’t always get the respect that they deserve. We all know how important pets are to our lives, and I would think to someone who is homebound that pet is their everything and how frustrating it would be for that person not to have the ability to take that pet to the vet to keep them healthy. I am able to help the seniors, who I’ve always respected and have wanted to help in some way but didn’t know how in my capacity. What a great idea TVMF had.”
Once a month, Dr. Parker comes in on her day off to see several Meals on Wheels pets.
“I enjoy coming in on my day off to give back, and I look forward to it," she said. "It’s been very rewarding and wonderful educating and talking to and answering the Meals on Wheels clients' questions. They have a lot of questions as they have not had the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great profession that we are a part of, and I have the ability now to reach a group that would normally not be able to come see me.”
Dr. Parker’s experience with the TVMF P.A.L.S. program has taught her many lessons.
“There is a bigger need than I ever realized, and it has made me more aware of a population of people that we weren’t even touching," she said. "I encourage all veterinarians to donate their time to various organizations or be a part of the TVMF P.A.L.S. program.”
TVMF P.A.L.S. participants Chiquita the dog and Stevers the cat are patients of Dr. Parker's and Dr. Palvino's, respectively.
TVMF would like to thank all of the veterinarians who volunteer by providing veterinary services to the TVMF P.A.L.S. program:
Doctor Bendall's Veterinary Housecall Practice, Matt Bendall, DVM
Feather and Fur Animal Hospital, Howard Blatt, DVM
Austin Vet Care, Jon Brandes, DVM
North Austin Animal Hospital, David Mouser, DVM, and Chad Harris, DVM
Austin Vet Hospital, Thomas Palvino, DVM
AM/PM Animal Hospital, Leanne Parker, DVM
Memorial Gift Program
The death of a pet is difficult for both clients and veterinarians, but it’s especially hard on your client. Helping them through the grieving process is a vital part of any practice. The Memorial Gift Program is an excellent way for veterinarians to show they care about a client’s loss by making a contribution in the pet’s honor to TVMF. The program is simple, tax deductable and helps fund the efforts of the Foundation, including the Emergency Student Fund Grant, dictionaries for new veterinary students, scholarships and the New Graduate Program. It also supports the Mark Francis Museum of Veterinary History within the TVMA building, and various other ways of educating the public about veterinary medicine. Nothing you can do will have a more positive impact on your practice and say “We Care,” like this program. Not only will it help retain current clients, but it will also aid in the recruitment of new clients. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising anyone can have.
For information on becoming involved in the Memorial Gift Program call the TVMF office at 512/452-4224, or visit the Foundation website, tvmf.org.