Dr. Levin Joins AC&C
AC&C started the year off by welcoming a new Medical Director, Lisa Hara Levin, DVM. In her first month, Dr. Levin has been getting to know everyone at AC&C's various locations, familiarizing herself with the organization and bringing a passionate energy to work every day.
Dr. Levin’s professional background is diverse, and has featured shelter medicine (a uniquely challenging and growing veterinary field) and academic activities as primary components. Her first exposure to shelter medicine came nearly 25 years ago, when she became a staff veterinarian at the Maryland SPCA, an open-admissions organization (like AC&C) in Baltimore. Unlike AC&C, this SPCA had a farm. "Matthew was the first Vietnamese potbelly pig I met and he was a character," Dr. Levin recalls. "It was a very nice introduction to shelter medicine."
Dr. Levin has worked all across the country, as her family would move often. Most recently, Dr. Levin worked at Spay Neuter Clinic Inc., a low-cost wellness center, in Arizona. While there, she won grants from Feeding Pets of the Homeless and later secured private donations that enabled her to provide free veterinary care, food, toys, and supplies to animals belonging to homeless individuals and elderly on fixed incomes.
Originally from Staten Island, Dr. Levin is eager to engage with fellow New Yorkers, and hear their concerns. She is particularly interested in shelter enrichment strategies for the animals, pain management, and how existing animal law may be adapted to reflect the concerns of a society increasingly committed to animal welfare. Dr. Levin is a graduate of Cornell and Tufts universities and has postdoctoral training from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. On the personal side, Dr. Levin is a vegan, who enjoys anything to do with being in gardens, forests and with animals.
Dr. Levin's first priority at AC&C is understanding the interrelationship among departments. "I have always maintained that the strongest link in the shelter setting are the staff who provide daily care for the animals," she says. "I want the Animal Care Officers [ACOs] to think of themselves as an extension of the medical department." ACOs already play a vital role in assisting the medical team, but Dr. Levin plans on fine-tuning and elevating existing knowledge and practice. She encourages dialogue on what can be done better, and makes sure she is always accessible.
Dr. Levin acknowlegdes one of AC&C's greatest challenges: infectious disease control. "Shelters are large kindergartens," Dr. Levin explains. "What child does not go to kindergarten or pre-school and not come home with several types of infections during the year?" While animals are vaccinated on intake, such vaccinations take time to kick in, and the stress of suddenly being in a shelter setting can depress the immune system. It's not simply a matter of ensuring a clean environment. Disease reduction is, however, one of her goals. "There's always room for improvement even in the best systems," she says.
Though it's still early, Dr. Levin knows there is no such thing as a typical day at AC&C. "Every day is a wonderful challenge," she states. "I don't define challenge as some great obstacle that's difficult and onerous; challenge is, what can I do better today? And I love seeing the animals who motivate me to do what I can to get them as good as I can through the works of our very fine veterinarians and out into forever homes."