PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- At Pace University’s College of Health Professions, two legged students aren't the only ones heading to class. This April, the school launched its first-ever curriculum on service and therapy dogs.
Inspired by the work of Iraq War veteran and author, Luis Carlos Montalván, Pace faculty joined forces with both Montalván and Lu Picard, co-founder of Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities , to develop a one-of-a-kind curriculum.
Montalván was a highly decorated former U.S. Army Captain who was wounded during his combat service in Iraq. With his service dog, Tuesday, he traveled the world as an advocates for those with disabilities, especially those scarred by the effects of war. Montalván worked closely with Pace faculty members Dr. Joanne K. Singleton and Dr. Lucille Ferrara to develop this course of study. Unexpectedly, Montalván took his own life in December 2016.
“Luis was deeply committed to the development of this curriculum and bringing this awareness and knowledge to health care professionals at the point of care,” said Singleton. "Our curriculum, which will impact practitioners and patients alike for years to come, is part of his legacy.”
The curriculum is the first and only one in the country designed to educate future health care professionals about the needs of disabled patients who are either teamed with a service dog, or may benefit from animal assisted therapies. The new university curriculum will serve as a model for other colleges and health care programs.
“The importance and impact of this curriculum extends beyond Pace, as service dogs and animal assisted therapies are paramount to health and must be within the scope of practice of health care providers,” said Dr. Harriet R. Feldman, dean of the College of Health Professions.
“Cultural competence is a pillar of our programs,” added Ferrara. “Educating our students about patients with disabilities is essential. How service and therapy dogs can be key helpers in a therapeutic care plan must be part of the conversation and part of the curriculum.”
Ultimately, the program hopes to improve the health outcomes of individuals with disabilities and enjoy equal participation in society. “Over 56 million people in the United States have visible and invisible disabilities,” said Picard. “Many who are not partnered with a service dog could greatly benefit. The goal of being partnered with a service dog is to help a person with disabilities to thrive.”