Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine medical students took a study break earlier this week to visit with a few four-legged and furry “angels.”

Dog day of summer: Mental health student org brings pet therapy to OUWB
Dog Day
Medical students enjoyed taking a break on Aug. 21 to spend a little time with dogs brought to campus by The Fur Angels.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine medical students took a study break earlier this week to visit with a few four-legged and furry “angels.”

OUWB’s Mental Health and Psychiatry Interest Group presented “Study Break with Therapy Dogs,” during lunch break on Aug. 31.

The event was held outside of OUWB’s O’Dowd Hall. A handful of dogs were brought to campus by The Fur Angels, a Rochester-based organization that provides pet therapy services to various groups throughout southeast Michigan.

OUWB’s medical students already have been in class for several weeks and generally said they appreciated the visit.

“It’s just a really nice break from everything that’s going on,” said Emily Babcock, a first-year medical student who was all smiles petting the different dogs.

“It’s great to get my mind off everything else for a while.”

Second-year medical student Nathan Lwo is president of the Mental Health and Psychiatry Interest Group.

The group is comprised of students curious about the field of psychiatry as well as those who want to expand awareness regarding mental health conditions and initiate dialogue on the need for mental health support.

Lwo said medical students especially need to be aware of their mental and emotional well-being. Having the dogs on campus is just one way to help them achieve that, he said.

“Having the dogs outside is really all about getting a breath of fresh air and reminding everyone to take a break,” said Lwo.

According to a 2019 study from Washington State University, researchers found that just 10 minutes of petting a dog can have a significant impact on a person’s health in form of lower blood pressure, heart rate, relaxed muscle tension, and more.

The study was limited to participants in animal visitation programs at universities, just like the one at OUWB this week led by the Mental Health and Psychiatry Interest Group.

Janae Kinn, LMSW, social worker at OUWB, said many other studies like the one from Washington State have demonstrated the mental health benefits of humans interacting with dogs.

“It can be really grounding,” she said. “Students are spending a good amount of their days looking at screens or in class, but here you are outside in nature and petting dogs...who are always happy to see people and can put a smile on just about anyone’s face.”

Lwo said there were no costs involved in bringing The Fur Angels to campus.

Kristyn Tonti is a team lead with organization.

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“We do it because we all love dogs and like doing volunteer work that helps others,” she said. “The dogs help people with stress, help them relax, and help them feel comfortable.”

To ensure the safety of everyone involved, participating dogs — like Tonti’s Labradoodle Bailey — must pass a test to ensure each is friendly, non-aggressive, listens well, and more.

Passing the test allows dogs to visit schools like OUWB as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and more.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Tonti. “People are always happy to see us with our dogs.”

First-year medical student Max Troyke was among the students happy to see the dogs visiting OUWB.

“This is great…a much-needed study break,” he said. “It’s just nice to have and really reinforces the community feeling here…it’s just an all-around positive experience.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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