CHAI Earns Service Award

Center for Human-Animal Interaction includes Dogs On Call, research and education programs

CHAI Earns Service Award

The Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine this month was awarded the 2013 Booker Willoughby Service Award in the category of educational programs. The award recognizes organizational excellence in training, utilizing and caring for service dogs.

Established in 2001 as the first center of its kind in a U.S. medical school, CHAI employs a three-pronged approach by managing a coordinated, hospital-based animal-assisted therapy/activities (AAT/A) program, Dogs On Call; conducting research to examine the health impact of AAT/A; and educating current and future health care professionals and the public about the practice and benefits of AAT/A.

Dogs On Call therapy dogs visited more than 2,000 patients and 3,000 family members and staff in 2012.

“We bring community volunteers to provide a comforting intervention to fellow citizens at a most challenging time of their lives: hospitalization,” said Sandra Barker, Ph.D., CHAI director, professor of psychiatry and the Bill Balaban Chair in Human-Animal Interaction. “Our research has provided the evidence base on which other health care facilities established AAT/A programs.”

Forty-five volunteers and 30 therapy dogs are active in the organization, and about five new therapy dogs are trained or enrolled per year.

The Booker Willoughby Service Award is named for a dog owned by Carol Willoughby, who established the Saint Francis Service Dogs Foundation in Roanoke.

Part of the CHAI team accepted the award at the Human-Animal Bond Symposium dinner on May 3 in Blacksburg, hosted by the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Center for Animal Human Relationships.

In addition to accepting the award, Barker presented at the symposium “The Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Human Health.”

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Denice Ekey (left), Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) program coordinator and executive committee member; Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D.(middle), VCU School of Business professor and CHAI executive committee member; Sandra Barker, Ph.D. (right), CHAI director; Carol Willoughby (front), co-founder of St. Francis Service Dogs in Roanoke; and Midas, Willoughby’s golden retriever.
Denice Ekey (left), Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) program coordinator and executive committee member; Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D.(middle), VCU School of Business professor and CHAI executive committee member; Sandra Barker, Ph.D. (right), CHAI director; Carol Willoughby (front), co-founder of St. Francis Service Dogs in Roanoke; and Midas, Willoughby’s golden retriever.
Sandra Barker, Ph.D., Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) director, speaks at the Human-Animal Bond Symposium dinner on May 3 in Blacksburg. Barker; Denice Ekey, CHAI program coordinator and executive committee member; and Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., VCU School of Business professor and CHAI executive committee member, accepted the 2013 Booker Willoughby Service Award in the category of educational programs at the event.
Sandra Barker, Ph.D., Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) director, speaks at the Human-Animal Bond Symposium dinner on May 3 in Blacksburg. Barker; Denice Ekey, CHAI program coordinator and executive committee member; and Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., VCU School of Business professor and CHAI executive committee member, accepted the 2013 Booker Willoughby Service Award in the category of educational programs at the event.
Sandra Barker, Ph.D., director of the VCU School of Medicine Center for Human-Animal Interaction, presents “The Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Human Health” at the Human-Animal Bond Symposium May 3.
Sandra Barker, Ph.D., director of the VCU School of Medicine Center for Human-Animal Interaction, presents “The Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Human Health” at the Human-Animal Bond Symposium May 3.