To improve community health, nursing students organize spay/neuter clinic

Free clinic planned for San Antonio’s West Side on Nov. 6.

SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 1, 2010) — A group of nursing students from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will spend Saturday morning in a different sort of clinical setting: They’re hosting a free spay-and-neuter clinic for dogs and cats on the city’s West Side.

The spay-and-neuter clinic may seem like a departure from caring for human patients, but it has relevance: West Side residents often describe the stray dogs that roam their neighborhoods as an obstacle to exercise. Also, for pet owners dropping off animals, there will be a free health-and-wellness fair with blood pressure and glucose screenings, free flu vaccines, diabetes education, nutritional consultations and more.

Community service learning projects like “SNIPS: Student Nurses Involved in Pet Safety” are valuable to the nursing students as well, demonstrating that where a person lives can have an effect on health.

“It’s giving them some grounding in the fact that the environment in which we live impacts the decisions we make,” said Adelita G. Cantu, Ph.D., RN, faculty mentor for SNIPS and an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Systems in the Health Science Center’s School of Nursing. “When you see patients at bedside, it’s important for nurses to understand that you can’t just give them instructions on how to care for their diseases. It’s about more than that.”

The clinic will be held this Saturday, Nov. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 Good Samaritan Community Services, 1600 Saltillo St.

The nursing students have partnered with SpaySA to provide the service. To have a pet spayed or neutered, pet owners must be residents of City Council Districts 3, 4 or 5 and make an appointment in advance by calling 210-351-7729 or visiting They also will be asked to present a rabies vaccination certificate or pay $10 for the vaccination to be administered on site.

For Dr. Cantu, it’s a chance to do something positive for the community where she grew up and lives today. She has involved her students in other projects on the West Side, including through the Healthy Choices for Kids summer program, which she co-created with Ruth E. Berggren, M.D., director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the UT Health Science Center.

“There’s such richness in the community and in the people in the community,” Dr. Cantu said. “There has to be a way to channel that toward making healthier choices.”

For her students, SNIPS is a chance to learn about the multilayered nature of health conditions, as well as the importance of community partnerships, social marketing and grassroots campaigns.

The project is supported in part by a Community Service Learning Mini-Grant from the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $739 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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