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New Argus Institute Director Blends Science of Communication with Veterinary Medicine
For Dr. Jane Shaw, an awareness of the importance of effective communication in veterinary medical practice came at a young age. As a teen-ager, she worked as a veterinary assistant in a practice where she saw first-hand the necessity of connecting with the client. As a new DVM graduate from Michigan State University in private practice, she realized she wasn’t prepared to face the interpersonal challenges presented by her veterinary team or her clients. That realization led her down a very non-traditional path for veterinarians – a path that eventually brought her to her recent appointment as Director of the Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University.
Following her graduation from MSU, Dr. Shaw worked in private practice for two years before joining the faculty at Cornell University. She was an instructor in the problem-based learning curriculum and founder of Cornell Companions, an animal-assisted therapy program. She also was an advisor to the Pet Loss Support Hotline and practicing veterinarian with the Cornell’s community practice service. Afterwards, she found herself heading to the University of Guelph, in Canada, where she studied social epidemiology with a special emphasis on veterinary-client-patient communications, and helped to develop the school’s pet loss hotline and Community Medicine Service.
Dr. Shaw and her PhD advisor, Dr. Cindy Adams, are considered pioneers in the field of communications in veterinary medicine, with Dr. Shaw serving on the advisory board of the International Conference on Communications in Veterinary Medicine. Most recently, she worked at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, as an epidemiologist and communications specialist.
“It’s very exciting for me to be here at Colorado State University,” said Dr. Shaw. “The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has always been on the leading edge of veterinary communications, especially with the establishment of the Argus Institute. This entire field of communications in veterinary medicine is gaining momentum and becoming more sophisticated with more rigorous training as the profession realizes the importance of communications skills in the profession.”
As Director, Dr. Shaw’s job description includes four basic components: research, teaching, service and administration, including development work. The majority of her time will be spent in teaching and service. She will co-teach the third-year Junior Practicum, and also conduct a senior rotation. For the first time, PVM students will have the opportunity to work with professional simulated clients to develop their communications skills. Dr. Shaw’s goal is to eventually create an integrated communications curriculum throughout the four years of veterinary school so students can begin with rudimentary skills and build to more advanced communication techniques.
“My goal is to give our students a communications tool box so that when they go into private practice, they are ready to handle any situation whether a routine check-up or, the most difficult part of any practice, a companion animal euthanasia,” said Dr. Shaw. “In addition, we hope to soon offer continuing education programs for practicing veterinarians so they can develop and hone their communications skills.”
In the research arena, Dr. Shaw is kicking off two projects, one that is looking at gender differences in communications (how male and female veterinarians communicate with their clients), and another that looks at the beginning of the clinical interview to enhance quality of care. As an administrator, Dr. Shaw is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the Argus Institute and also will be heavily involved in writing grants and developing funding resources for the Institute and its programs.