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Amy's Purpose Scholarship 

Fist Bump
Pouring Sand

Capacity Building

WHY A SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM? A background history of the veterinary medical personnel crisis
shortage and how Amy’s Purpose is trying to help.

Our main mission of bringing awareness to pet owners about the dangers of predators, strays, and
humans unexpectedly expanded about two years ago. A year after Amy’s death, DeAnn’s American
Bulldog, Sugar, injured her back leg and was in extreme pain. She contacted her local veterinary clinic, a
simple five-minute drive from my house. The doctor/owner was on overload and could not take her
dog. She ended up calling every vet and emergency clinic in the high and low desert to no avail. Sadly,
the answer was always the same, “sorry, we are too busy.” DeAnn ended up driving almost an hour to
the nearest clinic willing to accept our emergency. When all was said and done, she initiated an online
poll. Simply, she asked, “what the heck is going on?”
“I received dozens of horror stories from pet owners who experienced the same challenge of having to
drive miles outside of their communities to obtain medical treatment for their dogs and cats,” said
DeAnn. “Some of these stories did not have happy endings. Pets died along the route. The critical
shortage of veterinarians, vet technicians, and vet assistants is activating a major crisis in animal
emergency healthcare. Panicked pet owners seeking urgent medical aid for Fido and Fluffy are regularly
being turned away as veterinary hospitals are critically short staffed to handle the demand.”
DeAnn was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. She contacted my veterinarian, Dr. Linda
Colburn of and owner of Companion Animal Clinic. Dr. Colburn was a wealth of information. She said
that there are three major reasons contributing to the crisis. One, too few veterinary medical vet
schools exist in the United States, therefore not enough veterinarians are graduating. Vet medical
schools are as expensive and as academically challenging as human medical schools. For every
veterinarian in this country there are 18.5 positions available. Thus, vets can pick and choose to go just
about wherever they wish to practice. Second, people were obtaining more pets than usual during the
pandemic, which caused an overload of veterinarian healthcare needs on top of what was already an
impossible scheduling feat. Third, there are not enough qualified and certified veterinary technicians
and veterinary assistants. Again, there were too few schools to produce enough animal health care
workers to go around.
How could Amy’s Purpose help rectify the situation? DeAnn’s first call was to her friend, Michael
Phipps-Russell, executive director of the nonprofit, Loving All Animals. He is a walking encyclopedia of
information regarding animal welfare, rules, and regulations. They discussed the problem at length. It
seems that animal rescue groups were facing the same roadblocks as pet owners. It was not that long
ago when it was a breeze to get a veterinarian to see a newly received rescued animal. Now it can take
days, if not weeks. It became clear that the best way to help was to offer, through Amy’s Purpose,
veterinary assistant scholarships to individuals interested in animal sciences.
This is when the award-winning journalist, Bruce Fessier, along with the College of the Desert’s Personal
and Career Education (PaCE) Veterinary Assistant Program located in Palm Desert, California, came into
play (the only veterinary assistant program in the Coachella Valley). Fessier became actively involved
with Amy’s Purpose and its missions after his little dog Gracie was hit and killed by a car. Bruce realized
that if Gracie hadn’t of been killed instantly, it would have been a nightmare trying to find an animal
care facility in an emergency. He became especially interested in an Amy’s Purpose scholarship program
to help educated individuals interested in becoming veterinary assistants.

“We learned that the tuition to the seven-month class costs $3,195, plus accessories s including lab
coats, and the average pay for a veterinary assistant is $16 an hour,” said Fessier. We felt we could
encourage more students to enroll in a class to become certified as a veterinary assistant if we could
provide scholarships for students who couldn’t afford that tuition. The course includes an externship at
local veterinary clinics and hospitals, including the VCA Rancho Mirage Animal Hospital. It also prepares
students to be placed in veterinary assistant jobs after they graduate with a American Veterinary
Medical Association certificate. We prepared questionnaires for our scholarship applicants to fill out to
ensure they will work in the Coachella Valley or Morongo Basin, and we placed a highest priority on
students interested in continuing their education to become veterinary technicians or veterinarian
For some nine months, Fessier and DeAnn worked around the clock to organize a fundraiser to produce
a benefit at the Palm Springs Art Museum called 'Pet Love and Rock & Roll.' The goal was to raise a
dozen or more scholarships at $3200 each for the seven-month course which includes remote and
classroom learning culminating with hands-on externships at local veterinary clinics and hospitals.
As a result of these gallant efforts that took place before, during, and after this huge undertaking, a
partnership was formed with the COD and PaCE, eighteen scholarships have been underwritten so far
(including 5 that were matched by the COD Foundation), and enough net proceeds to help Amy’s
Purpose sustain its pet safety programs. Amy’s Purpose scholarship recipients will make a difference in
filling needed positions in the desert communities. Six graduated in March of 2023, another six will
graduate this summer, and the next group of six with start this fall thanks to generous underwriters; a
team of dedicated Amy’s Purpose executive board and advisory board members; and loyal supporters.
To underwrite a scholarship for a student please click here.

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