Winner’s Circle

All participants in the Healthy Libraries, Healthy Communities project are Winners! Join us in our Wellness wrap-up event to learn how animals influence our health and to win prizes like pedicures, books and gift cards.

You’ll get first-hand knowledge of the benefits of animals on human stress when we’re visited by certified therapy dogs between lunch and the presentation. Prepare to de-stress by petting dogs while the handlers share their typical activities in school, nursing homes and hospitals.

Friday, October 18 1:00-2:00
Dr. Sandra Barker, Director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Tompkins County Public Library, Ithaca, NY

Click Here for Dr. Barker’s presentation slides

In the library world, some public libraries  are inviting carefully chosen, certified dogs to help children practice reading  in a non-judgmental, comfortable setting.  Academic libraries have hosted therapy dogs during exam time as a very popular service to help students deal with stress levels.  Although still a relatively new field of inquiry, the human-animal interaction is receiving more and more research attention.  The accumulating results of this research support the contention that interacting with companion animals has health benefits.  Dr. Sandra Barker will explain the health outcomes most supported by human-animal interaction research internationally, summarize the VCU Center’s research on the health benefits of human-animal interaction, and provide an introduction to the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical School. Come learn about this exciting new ‘frontier’ in human-animal relationships and how some libraries are creating innovative services. Man’s ‘best friend’ is even better than we realized!

Center for Human-Animal Interaction
The VCU School of Medicine is the only medical school in the country which has its own Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI). The center brings together faculty members and adminstrators from various disciplines to provide students with a wide range of educational opportunities. CHAI offers volunteer opportunities to medical students, while students from the Monroe Park campus may work at the center as volunteers or as work-study employees.

The center also serves the VCU Health System through its Dogs on Call program, which provides therapeutic visits to patients and staff members in pediatrics, oncology, psychology, psychiatry, emergency medicine, rehabilitation, physical therapy and various other departments at the VCU Medical Center.

The center is deeply committed to promoting interdisciplinary research in the field of human-animal interaction. Past research studies conducted at CHAI have been published in American Behavioral Scientist, Anthrozoos, Psychological Reports, the Journal of Mental Health and the Journal of Business Education. Current research studies at CHAI include an investigation of the effect of animal-assisted therapy on patients referred for pain and palliative care at the NIH Clinical Center and a study on brain wave activity in normal adults interacting with a therapy dog. A pilot study conducted by the center suggests that healthcare professionals who spend as little as five minutes with a therapy dog experience the same level of stress reduction as healthcare professionals who spend twenty minutes resting quietly.

CHAI relies on a large network of dedicated individuals and institutions, including Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU’s School of Medicine, VCU’s School of Business, the CHAI Executive Committee, the CHAI Advisory Committee, VCU’s School of Nursing, the VCU Medical Center, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virgina Tech. The center also works closely with regional veterinarians and volunteers to provide the local community with services such as Pet Loss Support, continuing education for professionals and community education workshops.

Currently, CHAI depends heavily on donations to survive, but Center Director Dr. Sandra Barker plans for the center to eventually become a self-sustaining institution. Her goals for the program include funding more research studies, expanding the program to include more students and residents and exploring new treatments based on human-animal interaction therapies. She hopes the center will continue to be an integral part of the VCU School of Medicine.

For information on making a donation or becoming a CHAI volunteer, please contact:

The Center for Human-Animal Interaction
Sandra B. Barker, Ph.D., NCC, LPC, Center Director
Phone: 804-827-PAWS (827-7297)


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