A Legacy in Animal Welfare Leads to Shelter Medicine

Michaela Oglesby, class of '24Michaela Oglesby, class of ’24 in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, is graduating this month with a list of accomplishments as long as a dog’s tail.

In addition to earning a Master’s in Shelter Medicine, a Certificate in Veterinary Forensics, and the Certificate in Shelter Medicine, she is this year’s recipient of the Award for Excellence in Shelter Medicine. This honor is given to a senior student who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to improvement of the lives of sheltered and homeless animals through the study and advancement of shelter medicine.

Early Inspirations

Michaela’s success as a Shelter Medicine and veterinary student shouldn’t come as a surprise. “There are pictures of me as a 7-year-old dressed as a vet for Halloween,” she said. “Then when I was 10 I went to a shelter summer camp, the first real introduction that I had to a shelter. When I was 12, my mom and I started volunteering at a shelter and I started taking all of their photos of adoptable animals.”

Shortly after that, she and her mother walked into a small rescue group, and Michaela offered to take photos of their animals, too. “It sort of spiraled from there,” she said. “Now that small group is Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue in Bradenton, the shelter my family runs, just grown a lot.”

By the time Michaela was 14, she was helping give subcutaneous fluids to parvo puppies and volunteering at vaccine clinics. “I’d work with any veterinarian we had a relationship with who’d have me,” she said.

When it came time to go to college, Michaela chose UF in Gainesville, earning her Bachelor’s degree on campus and her Master’s in Shelter Medicine online. From there she entered the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, largely due to its reputation as a center for Shelter Medicine education.

“I knew I wanted to be a shelter vet, and I had the privilege of being able to tailor all of my life choices to what I knew I wanted to do,” she said. “I knew I wanted to stay at UF based on the programs and resources we have. In my Master’s program, we had people who were international talking about the work UF is doing in Shelter Medicine. We have students in other vet schools taking our online courses, so why not just go directly to the source and get the education plus the real life interaction with the people in our field?”

Real-World Experience

Michaela Oglesby, class of '24One of the most important elements of the program was the real-world experience she gained. “I’m doing an internship at the San Diego Humane Society next year. And in speaking with the other interns, I asked them lots and lots of questions about their surgery experience prior to the internship, and whether they felt prepared for the internship. And even those students at other universities who were interested in Shelter Medicine and pursuing a Shelter Medicine internship didn’t have anywhere near the surgery experience that I’ve been able to get through our externship partners.”

One such experience was an externship with Dr. Meaghan Mielo at Citrus County Animal Services, who is herself a past intern in the UF Shelter Medicine Program. “She was just a phenomenal shelter resource to learn from,” said Michaela. “I was also able to go down to Peggy Adams and all over the state. I went to Jacksonville. I went to Miami for a clinical rotation as well. Just the amount of opportunities we have as students in the program and how easy it is to access it is amazing.”

After her San Diego internship, Michaela intends to bring her skills and passion back to Florida. “There’s so much work that I can do for animal welfare in the state of Florida, plus my entire family is here. And I don’t know if in the next year versus five years down the line, but I’ll definitely eventually be returning back home to my family’s shelter.”

A Future Leader

She also has her eye on a leadership role. “After I’m comfortable as a vet, I am very interested in organizational leadership in a nonprofit. I am interested in pursuing some sort of executive director/veterinary combination, because shelter management plays such a large role in Shelter Medicine.”

Dr. Julie Levy, director of the Shelter Medicine Program, said, “Michaela’s work in shelters, starting even before veterinary school is definitely extraordinary. We are looking forward to welcoming her as a colleague in Shelter Medicine and watching her blossom as a leader in our field.”

Shelter Medicine is for Every Vet

One last takeaway from Michaela is the value of Shelter Medicine education to all veterinarians, not just those who plan on working in shelters. “Regardless of where you go, if you go into emergency medicine, if you go into general practice, you’re going to see shelter animals. And so the Shelter Medicine Certificate is so much more than just preparing people for becoming a shelter vet, working in a nonprofit or municipal shelter. It is educating people on a large part of their population of clients they’re going to care for in private practice as well.

“Because ultimately we need everyone to be educated on shelter practices, whether that be just microchipping their pets, or using tattoos to identify sterilized animals in a general practice setting, or not questioning why shelters are vaccinating before eight weeks of age. Just sort of giving everyone the baseline information for the ability to better care for all of the animals they’re seeing.”

Michaela Oglesby is one of 22 veterinary students graduating this month with the Professional Certificate in Shelter Medicine, an advanced training program offered only by the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida. Learn more about this opportunity at https://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/education/on-campus-certificate/