Texas A&M Students Bring Veterinary Medicine to Underserved Campus Community Members

Portrait of several young men in protective clothing, lab coats and medical masks gathered around a table holding two small dogs

Veterinary students examine basic Aggie dogs.

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

For as long as she could remember, modern biomedical sciences graduate Emma Bender 22 loved animals and wanted to become a veterinarian. When she discovered her passion for community service as well, she decided to dedicate her career to serving people and animals alike.

While volunteering at a service event for the Texas A&M Ags REACH student organization, she had an idea that would allow her to start achieving her goals while still a student.

Bender noted that members of her local community have reduced access to veterinary care for their pets and have come up with a way to make a difference.

“I was having a conversation about a health fair we were planning for our basic Aggies, when I started thinking it would be really cool to take care of their pets too,” the Plano native said.

Her dream came true when she became the Texas A&M School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) and Rich Brian’s Project Partnered to host REACH Pet Health Fair for essential workers at Texas A&M.

During the recurring event, service workers from the Texas A&M campus are invited to bring their pets to a free pet clinic that offers physical examinations, heartworm and stool tests, heartworm prevention and vaccinations by VMBS veterinary students under the supervision of faculty.

Serving people and pets

Photo of three women in casual clothes and medical masks standing around a table filled with pet medicine

Emma Bender, Dr. Stacey Ekman and Elizabeth Ekman

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The REACH Project (Respect Empowerment Aspiration Community Hope) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2017 by Texas A&M alumnus Max Gerall ’18 to support more than 3,000 third-party contract workers at the university, including food service personnel, custodians, grounds, maintenance personnel, Many of them face daily difficulties.

REACH provides these community members with health, education, and housing resources, areas where many of them feel there are gaps. The nonprofit regularly works in partnership with Texas A&M’s Ags REACH, which provides manpower to help REACH achieve its goals.

In partnership with VMBS, the REACH Pet Health Fair provides free pet services to essential workers who may not have access to the same level of care.

One client was Chanika Moses, a Compass USA dietitian who works at Texas A&M, who brought her dog, Puppins, and cat, Noodles, for a check-up.

“It went really well and it was a great experience,” Moses said. “These pets are our support animals; my dog, in particular, knows when we are in pain, emotionally or physically, and comes to cuddle us. She tries to make us feel better in any way she can.”

“They are a very important part of our family and we try to take care of them as much as possible, but we want to do it at a low cost,” she said. “Going to the vet is very expensive, so this gave us a lot of opportunity and we could redistribute that income to things other than the dreaded vet bill.”

Moses plans to return for future pet health fairs and for other collaborations between REACH and VMBS.

“It’s really amazing to see how many people we’re helping,” Bender said. “Because I’ve been in touch with our core Aggies, they are all so grateful that we’re doing this for them. Seeing this unfold as something I’ve created is incredible and, frankly, it’s really hard to put into words.”

Finding joy in helping others

Achieving achievement in community service was something Bender first experienced in high school while participating in summer missionary trips for her church.

“We’d go to Crossville, Tennessee every summer to serve the underprivileged and have an event along the lines of Vacation Bible School for Kids,” she said. “Being able to interact with these kids and knowing how much they loved what we did for them was frankly more satisfying than anything else I could ever do.”

Portrait of a man and woman in casual clothes and medical masks standing next to each other with thumbs up

Emma Bender and Max Geralt

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Besides helping others, veterinary medicine is one of her greatest interests in life.

“I’ve always wanted to be a vet. Literally since before I can remember, that’s all I ever wanted to do,” she said. “Through high school, all the opportunities I had under vets, working in vet clinics, never changed my mind. .”

While the world-renowned VMBS was the main motivation for Bender to attend Texas A&M University, he was also drawn to the university’s focus on dedicated service.

“It’s amazing because there are so many opportunities for students to get involved in the community,” she said.

Bender is already planning a future that combines her love of veterinary medicine and community service. She envisions a career in which she can use her small animal medicine skills to support local animal shelters and community members in need.

To read the full story, visit the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ website.

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