Cornell University: Veterinary alumni launch fund to support well-being efforts

As a veterinary student, Bruce Christensen, D.V.M. ’02, didn’t need to think much about his mental health. While Cornell’s curriculum was rigorous and he faced his share of personal struggles during that time, he emerged feeling he had life relatively under control. It was only later in his professional career that difficulties in all areas of his life converged and brought mental health starkly into focus. “I started having panic attacks, and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced,” he says. During this time, another blow struck. One of Christensen’s close friends from veterinary school, Ed Park, D.V.M. ’02, ended his own life. This tragedy came as a shock to Christensen and his fellow classmates. “All of those elements came together and really made me feel like, if there is something we can do about these issues — we should,” Christensen says.

This idea crystallized into the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Well-being and Mental Health Fund, spearheaded by Christensen and fellow classmate Ericka Mendez, D.V.M. ’02. If successfully endowed at the required $100K amount, this fund would offset costs associated with the curricular adjustments already underway and programmatic efforts overseen by the new CVM director of well-being, Kathryn Buckley ’01.

“It is our hope that as students engage with the reality of mental health challenges in our profession and use their time in veterinary school to develop resilience and positive coping strategies, we can reduce individual crises and increase overall personal peace and happiness for those who follow us,” Christensen and Mendez wrote in a letter to their classmates.

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