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Dr. Levin Joins AC&C

Dr. Lisa Hara LevinAC&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 now oversees the medical department across AC&C’s centers in each of the five boroughs. She will be responsible for all veterinary medical and surgical functions.

"I'm excited to be working with so many good vets who really do have that fire in the belly," Dr. Levin says. 

Dr. Levin examines a bird in BrooklynDr. 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 also worked at the Animal Welfare League of Greater Baltimore, and at the Capital Area Humane Society in Columbus, Ohio. At the latter, she was very active in preparing veterinary statements for cruelty prosecutions. It was the largest component of her job, aside from spay/neuter. Later she joined the Associated Humane Societies, where she served as a staff veterinarian and director of veterinary services. Among the more exotic animals she tended there was a 20+ ft. python and an elephant named Sunny. It's also where she adopted her dog Panchito, who recently passed away. Panchito, a five year dachshund surrendered to the shelter, wasn't getting adopted and had a medical problem. "I took him over to my side, and then I took him home one night, and I looked at him, and he looked at me..." The rest is history: Dr. Levin had had a number of animals in her life, usually big dogs, but Panchito was irresistable. "I was disarmed and just charmed by him, and he became like my son."

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. 

Dr. Levin with Ana and BrooklynOriginally 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, Dr. Lund, and HappyAC&C’s medical department includes a Chief Veterinarian, four additional full-time vets, medical supervisors, medical clerks, and numerous licensed veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, and animal care technicians. Every animal that comes through AC&C’s doors is given an initial medical assessment and (immediately upon intake) appropriate vaccinations. AC&C is open to all animals in need, regardless of health and behavior, or species.

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."

 

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