From TNR-teen to veterinarian, new UF shelter medicine intern is looking to lead

Dr. Mielo and friendWhat does a high school girl who trapped feral cats in her neighborhood and spent her own money getting them spayed and neutered grow up to be? If you’re Meaghan Mielo, the answer is: a shelter veterinarian. And having just graduated from veterinary school, Dr. Mielo has now joined the UF Shelter Medicine Program for a one-year internship.

“I’ve been on the course of shelter medicine since my undergrad days at UC Davis,” Mielo said. “I was working at an animal shelter as a volunteer veterinary assistant, and I fell in love with the  complexity and dedication of the shelter medicine team.”

Mielo went on to Western University for vet school, and upon graduation pursued a shelter medicine interneship at UF. “I did a lot of research on the different programs that are available, and was pretty sold on UF’s program based on their dedication to providing a diverse experience for the intern. I wanted to come out of the internship not only as a really good shelter vet, but prepared to be a leader in shelter medicine. I love the fact that you get to see medicine and surgery, and you get to really make a difference in the community and in the pet population that doesn’t necessarily have people advocating for them.

“From a veterinary standpoint, you never know what’s going to come into a shelter, so you get to kind of work on all different kinds of cases. And I’ve also always been interested in infectious disease management and control at a population level, which is a huge aspect of shelter medicine.”

Mielo thinks more veterinary students and veterinarians would benefit from studying and working in the field of shelter medicine. “When you get into a shelter, you learn there’s more to shelter medicine than just spaying or neutering. There’s population health, there’s individual health, there’s animal welfare. There are so many things that go into shelter medicine that you can’t really appreciate until you’re in it. Specialists who I’ve worked with during school would say things about shelter medicine like, ‘Oh, you just want to do spays and neuters forever.’ But that’s not true at all; I want to do everything. And that’s what’s great about shelter medicine: you encompass it all.”

Like many veterinarians as well as many shelter workers, Mielo came from an animal loving family. “My parents were very tolerant of me bringing strays home all the time,” she said. “In high school, I was trapping the feral cats in the area and saving up money to get them spayed and neutered so that I could make sure that I was controlling the population, even when I didn’t know anything about shelter medicine in general. My family fostered this love for animals, and my need to make a difference for them.”

As part of her internship, Mielo will be working with local shelters, including getting back to her roots in a TNR clinic. But her plans extend far beyond the surgery suite. “I don’t ever see myself not working in a shelter,” she said. “My main goal is not only to work in shelters, but also to be a leader, whether that be within the one shelter that I’m working in, or in organized shelter medicine.

“And that’s a huge part of what drew me to UF’s program; I felt that it would give me the resources necessarily to not just be a good vet, but to be a leader.”