Working Together, Helping Each Other
San Francisco SPCA – HSVMA-RAVS connection

August 25, 2014

Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, Co-President of the San Francisco SPCA, spearheaded a long-term relationship between the organization and HSVMA-RAVS to build her staff's confidence.

Humane organizations need each other. When faced with a task that seems overwhelming, working with other groups to learn, help, and occasionally commiserate can make the nearly impossible, manageable. HSVMA-RAVS has enjoyed a rewarding, nearly symbiotic cooperation with the San Francisco SPCA for seven years that has involved 20 veterinary professionals and assistants.

Like a carefully-woven tapestry, the intertwining of RAVS and SF SPCA is anchored by a strong knot: Dr. Jennifer Scarlett. Dr. Scarlett, a RAVS veteran, was working at a private practice in San Francisco with Melina Stambolis, RVT in 2007 and encouraged Melina to volunteer for an international RAVS trip. Melina was soon a consultant for RAVS as well as a relief veterinary technician for the SF SPCA, and Dr. Scarlett became the SF SPCA Director of Shelter Medicine.

Building Confidence and Broadening Perspectives

Dr. Scarlett’s staff at the SF SPCA was skilled and dedicated, but she noted a lack of confidence, and perhaps a bit of “burn out” that anyone from a shelter or rescue group understands. Knowing the unique experience the program offers, Dr. Scarlett started recruiting her staff to volunteer for RAVS clinics. She felt working with the RAVS staff and seeing the plight of animals in the remote locations RAVS serves would build their confidence and give them a broader perspective. Her continuing work with RAVS, in particular with Dr. Kate Kuzminski, encouraged Dr. Scarlett to recruit RAVS staff for positions at the SF SPCA as well. Dr. Kuzminski is now the Director of Shelter Medicine at San Francisco SPCA and Dr. Scarlett is the Co-President. The recruiting went both ways: Last year Dr. Paul Breckenridge left his staff position in the SF SPCA Spay/Neuter clinic working with Dr. Jean Goh, another RAVS veteran, to join the HSVMA-RAVS staff full time. In her new position, Dr. Scarlett continues to be a strong RAVS supporter, including offering grants for staff volunteering with RAVS and permitting staff to use their days allotted for Continuing Education for RAVS trips. This summer, Dr. Scarlett renewed her own RAVS spirit, volunteering for the clinic on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

Robin Post is a prime example of Dr. Scarlett’s encouragement. An exceptional assistant with a heart large enough for every animal she meets, Robin heard of RAVS from Dr. Sheryl Owang, an SF SPCA clinician that had been on a RAVS trip in northern California. Dr. Scarlett saw great potential in Robin, if she could overcome her timidity, so she strongly encouraged her to volunteer with RAVS. In 2009, Robin volunteered for her first RAVS trip and never looked back. She has now worked on 12 RAVS trips, became a Registered Veterinary Technician, and is highly valued by both RAVS and the SF SPCA.

This year, RAVS has benefitted from SF SPCA administrative staff. Lindsey Smallsreed is a Client Service Representative that had long wished she could go on a RAVS trip. She mentioned this one day to Dr. Scarlett who immediately and enthusiastically explained that every RAVS clinic needs volunteers that are not veterinary professionals for a variety of important tasks. Lindsey came to the San Carlos, Ariz. clinic and led the Intake team that is the first face of RAVS as the clients arrive. Similarly, Allison Lang, who works with the SF SPCA Community Cats Program, was RAVS Intake Lead for this year’s Standing Rock clinics in North Dakota.

From left to right: Allison Lang, Melina Stambolis, Robin Post, Dr. Kate Kuzminski, Dr. Jean Goh, and Dr. Paul Breckenridge pictured in McLaughlin, S.D. on the Standing Rock Reservation.
Dr. Paul Breckenridge/HSVMA

Sharing Ideas and Experience

Beyond the experience of the staff members, HSVMA-RAVS and the San Francisco SPCA benefit directly from the synergy of these dynamic groups. Protocols, therapies, and ideas move easily between both organizations, improving the patient care of both. The large staff at SF SPCA shelter, spay/neuter clinic, and veterinary hospital brings in new ideas, new techniques, and new approaches to old problems and tests them in the crucibles of a state-of-the-art shelter; high-volume, high-quality spay/neuter clinic; and a cutting-edge general practice. When SF SPCA staff comes to a RAVS clinic, they bring these results. They also bring back the results of RAVS collecting knowledge and techniques from veterinary professionals and students from all over the country and beyond.

Dr. Scarlett began this amazing, informal cooperation, and it now has a life and energy of its own. As long as there is an HSVMA-RAVS, there will be San Francisco SPCA staff coming to our clinics, and the helping, sharing, and regeneration will continue.