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2015 Veterinary Wellness and Social Work Summit


See all presenter biographies and presentation notes

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Keynote Presenters

Ralph Acampora, Ph.D. Ralph Acampora, Ph.D. 
Hofstra University

Ralph R. Acampora, Associate Professor of Philosophy, teaches in the areas of applied ethics and history of philosophy. He conducts research in the fields of environmental philosophy, bioethics, and animal studies. He has authored Corporal Compassion: Animal Ethics and Philosophy of Body (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), co-edited A Nietzschean Bestiary (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), has published work in a variety of books and journals, referees for Environmental Ethics and for the Journal of Critical Animal Studies, and is a member of the editorial board for Society & Animals as well as Humanimalia”. Recent interests of his include the hermeneutics of spectatorship at zoos, moral issues pertaining to the built, including biotechnical environment, and the ontological status of nature.

David Bartram, BVetMed DipM MCIM CDipAF DipECSRHM MPhil FRCVSDavid Bartram, BVetMed DipM MCIM CDipAF DipECSRHM MPhil FRCVS
Vet wellness advocate

David Bartram is a marketing director for a leading international animal health pharmaceutical company. Outside work he has been actively involved in academic research into mental health and well-being in the veterinary profession which has is widely published in veterinary and medical journals. He was a director of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund (2008 to 2014, a UK registered charity supporting vets in distress or need) with special responsibility for the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme (medical interventions for vets with mental health-related problems) and is currently a Vet Helpline volunteer (confidential emotional support and sign-posting for veterinary professionals), an elected member of the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (the regulatory body for the UK veterinary profession) and a member of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative taskforce. David is a Visiting Teaching Fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey, where he is responsible for teaching elements of the professional skills programme. He was the 2013 recipient of the British Veterinary Association’s Chiron Award for outstanding contributions to the veterinary profession.

Dr. Kathleen Cooney Dr. Kathleen Cooney 
Founder and owner of Home to Heaven, P.C.

Dr. Kathleen Cooney is founder and owner of Home to Heaven, P.C., an in-home pet hospice and euthanasia specialty service based in northern Colorado. She also operates the country’s first end-of-life center on her farm in Loveland, Colorado.  Dr. Cooney graduated from Colorado State University’s DVM program in 2004.  She is a strong advocate for education and teaches home hospice and euthanasia, along with client communication, to junior veterinary students in CSU’s veterinary medical program.  Dr. Cooney has developed numerous webinars and continuing education opportunities for veterinarians. She also created the online national euthanasia directory  Her first book, In-home Pet Euthanasia Techniques, was completed in 2011 and can be found as an eBook at  Dr. Cooney’s second book, Veterinary Euthanasia Techniques: A Practical Guide, was published by Wiley-Blackwell in July 2012. She is currently working on chapters for an upcoming animal hospice book due out at the end of 2015. Dr. Cooney is the president, conference coordinator, and board member for the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC).  She was also a member of the companion animal working group for the 2013 AVMA Euthanasia Panel proceedings. Due to her commitment of care for aging and dying pets, she received the 2011 Rising Star Veterinarian Award from the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association and awarded the Colorado Woman of Vision award in 2013.  In short, she is extremely dedicated to ensuring that aging dogs receive the best care possible during the last months, weeks, and days of life.

Stephanie LaFarge, Ph. D.Stephanie LaFarge, Ph. D.
Senior Director of Counseling Services
ASPCA Animal Health Services

Stephanie LaFarge is Senior Director of Counseling Services as part of ASPCA AntiCruelty Group Forensic Special Projects. She specializes in all aspects of the Human/Animal Bond and works with the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Illinois.

For 15 years, Dr. LaFarge has provide personalized support to people grieving the loss of their pet via her national 24-hour toll-free Pet Loss Hotline. Dr. LaFarge also assists owners and their children who are distressed by the prospect of humane euthanasia of their companion animal.

At the ASPCA, Dr. LaFarge developed the organization’s Animal Assisted Therapy program, which places Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) trained and registered teams in hospitals, nursing homes, school and libraries. Through the R.E.A.D program, volunteers were trained to assist children with reading difficulties. She is a past member of the Board of Trustees of Pet Partners, a leading proponent of the Human-Animal health connection.

During the months that followed the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Dr. LaFarge facilitated the remarkable contribution of more than 300 therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers. Thousands of hours of compassionate intervention were provided to families and service personnel at various sites in New York City, including Ground Zero. Her own dog, Sophie, was an active participant. Deploying with the ASPCA Field Investigation and Response Department, she has worked at many natural and man-made disasters involving animals. Including Joplin Mo, Hurricane Sandy and various blood sport rescue operations. Her role is to encourage resilience among First Responders and to counsel families who hav lost pets.

Dr. LaFarge pioneered the use of an Alternative Sentencing Intervention with persons convicted of animal cruelty and neglect. She specializes in the treatment and rehabilitation of animal hoarders, to minimize the extensive damage to animalsdone by people with this problem.

Dr. LaFarge received her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, for her work with children dying of cancer. She taught at Brown University and was an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at The University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ where she specialized in treatment of persons with HIV using a harm reduction orientation. Dr. LaFarge’s work with animals includes the surrogate mothering of an infant chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky, as part of a Columbia University sign language acquisition project.

Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., M.Div Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., M.Div 

Jessica Pierce, Ph.D. is a bioethicist and writer. Her research has focused on animal ethics, veterinary bioethics, and environmental bioethics. She is the author of a number of books, including The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their LivesContemporary Bioethics, and Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals. Jessica’s work has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalScientific American Mind, and other popular media outlets, and she writes an on-going blog for Psychology Today. She lives in Colorado.

Susan Cohen, DSW Susan Cohen, DSW 

Susan Cohen, DSW is on a mission to help animal lovers and pet professionals join forces to help pets live the best possible life.

She is committed to working with you so the pets you care for live healthy lives and come to a peaceful end. And she wants professionals to know, you can have a fulfilling life of practice with people who love what they do. She’ll support you to revive yourself and your work.

Dr. Cohen is a pioneer in the fields of pet loss and human-animal interaction. As a result she is often called on to consult with veterinary practices on client relations and compassion fatigue. She has also consulted with corporations such as Pfizer Animal Health, now called Zoetis, and Purina on how to help pet lovers provide the best care for animals.

Dr. Cohen earned her doctorate in social welfare from Columbia University School of Social Work , where she researched the role of pets in urban families. She has taught social work at Columbia University and Long Island University . She also teaches online graduate courses and seminars for veterinarians and animal protection professionals, lectures, and gives media interviews.

In addition she is Chairperson of SWAHAB (Social Workers Advancing the Human-Animal Bond), the first such committee of the National Association of Social Workers. In 2011 she received the Louis T. Benezet Award for Career Achievement.

A social worker since 1977, Dr. Cohen served as Director of Counseling at The Animal Medical Center (AMC) from 1982-2011 and counseled well over 25,000 people. She has helped pet lovers cope with the illness of their pets, make difficult decisions, such as how far to treat and when to stop, and process their grief when their pets die. In 1983 she developed the first professionally led Pet Loss Support Group and began an animal assisted activity program that took the then-unusual form of having volunteers work with their own pets.

She has also taught thousands of veterinarians, technicians, social workers, and others to figure out what needs to be done for pets and how to support each other to reach good decisions and to have productive lives. She has written many scholarly articles and lectures at dozens of professional conferences. Hosts of these conferences include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, Academy American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), Veterinary Cancer Society, International Society of Anthrozoology, Cornell University, Michigan State University, University of California at Davis, Columbia University, National Association of Social Workers, Veterinary Social Work Summit, Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and Green Chimneys Humane Education conference.

Dr. Cohen has originated many training programs for workers in the veterinary and social service fields, and she has been a field instructor for several schools of social work. This has led to the establishment of similar programs throughout the country.

She has written numerous articles and lectured widely to veterinary, veterinary technician social work, and human health programs on pet loss and human behavior, communication, human-animal interaction, and compassion fatigue.

Dr. Cohen’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and Smithsonian Magazine. In addition, she has made numerous television and radio addresses, including “The Today Show,” “20-20,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Her most recent academic articles are “Compassion Fatigue and the Veterinary Health Team”, “How to Teach Pet Loss to Veterinary Students”, andabook chapter, “Loss of a Therapy Animal”, published in 2010. A revised version of her book chapter, “Loss of a Therapy Animal”, will be published in 2015.

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