CVM Provides Free Eye-Exams for Military Service Dogs
The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Comparative Ophthalmology program has done its part to assist military service dogs. Elizabeth Giuliano, DVM, MS, DACVO, professor and section chief of the Comparative Ophthalmology Service at the MU Veterinary Health Center, has diligently worked with both clinical and basic science faculty for more than a decade to provide specialist services through her collaborations with both clinicians and vision-science researchers.
“The ophthalmology section has provided free exams to military service dogs through a program organized by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists since 2011,” explains Giuliano.
These dogs serve an important purpose, helping those who are blind or need assistance for other disabilities. This means it is crucial for veterinarians to be able to catch and treat afflictions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and other conditions that may affect eyesight. Through this program, check-ups are complimentary for dogs that are certified as guide dogs, detection dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, as well as dogs that are currently enrolled in formal service-training programs through national, regional or local organizations.
Kevin Donnelly, DVM, MS, DACVO, an assistant teaching professor of veterinary ophthalmology, said the ACVO service dog exam was canceled this year due to COVID-19, but in 2019, Donnelly examined 43 military working dogs from local military bases as part of the yearly ACVO service dog event. He noted that the service from that event goes beyond active service dogs. “In addition to active military working dogs, we often see veterans and their service animals as part of the program,” said Donnelly.
CVM Provides Support for Students Interested in the Veterinary Corps
The CVM also provides support for students who decide they are interested in entering the Veterinary Corps. Through the Office for Student Affairs and United States Army representatives, veterinary students are informed of the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. In this program, students can pursue different avenues of veterinary medicine within the U.S. Army, from disease research to caring for dogs that actively serve. Angela Tennison, DVM, associate dean for the Office of Student Affairs and interim associate dean for Academic Affairs, said that the CVM works with students to help with any necessary paperwork to support their applications, as well as assisting with scheduling so they can meet the requirements of their training.
Rajiv Mohan Aims to Help Veterans with Eye Injuries
Rajiv R. Mohan, MSc, PhD, FARVO, endowed chair and professor of ophthalmology and molecular medicine at the MU CVM, is conducting research that he hopes will provide insight into therapies that may help soldiers who have experienced eye injury. Mohan, whose translational research program is funded through several VA and NIH grants, explained his goal.
“My research helps our veterans and active military personnel to preserve their eyesight and extend the opportunity to see and enjoy the beauty of the world,” said Mohan. “The primary goal of my research is to help veterans and civilians experience the least amount of vision problems, regardless if they are originating from genetic defects, physical or chemical injury, diabetes, or aging. Chemical warfare, projectiles and shrapnel, smoke, and dust are known to cause blindness in our soldiers. My research lab is developing various eye drops for veterans, soldiers, and active duty personnel to use to protect their corneal transparency and vision while on or off the battlefield.”
Mohan says this research means a lot to him because of his family ties to the military.
“I am both the grandson and nephew of active duty military personnel who sacrificed their lives for their country while serving,” he said. “Also, most of my mother’s side of my family are active duty or veterans. My passion for vision research started with the stories told by my grandfather, uncles, and cousins while serving. Watching their struggles with vision loss and hearing similar tales from other servicemen and women motivated me to become an eye researcher and discover novel therapies. I want the give back to veterans who so bravely serve our country by improving their sight and quality of life.”
By Nick Childress