The MU College of Veterinary Medicine has created a full-time position to help veterinary students succeed as they advance through the four-year curriculum. Kerry Karaffa, PhD, a psychological resident, was recently hired to serve as the mental health and wellness coordinator with the MU Counseling Center and College of Veterinary Medicine.
Karaffa offers confidential counseling to all MU College of Veterinary Medicine students and fellows, with services tailored to fit individual needs and goals.
“My goal is to provide quality counseling services to help students manage stressors both in and out of vet school and ultimately support their ability to be successful,” Karaffa said. “I think it is important to recognize that although attending vet school is a challenging experience in itself, many students also face ongoing challenges in other areas of their lives, including in their personal and family relationships. I believe that supporting positive mental health and wellness is an ongoing process, and to effectively address the needs of students, we must take a comprehensive approach.”
In addition to providing counseling services, Karaffa plans to offer seminars on special topics related to psychology and mental health, and also conduct research on mental health needs among students in veterinary medicine.
Previously, the college had a psychologist available on a part-time basis. Angela Tennison, DVM, said that one of her priorities when she was appointed associate dean for Student Affairs in 2015 was to increase the emphasis on a proactive approach to student wellness.
“We want to give our students the tools to recognize when circumstances are creating extra challenges to their physical or emotional health and help them work through difficult times,” Tennison said. “Some of the issues that exacerbate our students’ anxiety include worry about student loan debt, helping clients who are grieving, and the rigors of the curriculum. Ours is a demanding profession; stress levels don’t necessarily decrease when students graduate. If we can help future veterinarians stay healthy while in school, we hope that those techniques they learn here will help them throughout their careers.”