SCITUATE – The Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association’s new president, Katee LoMonaco of the Scituate Animal Hospital, says she wants to promote Rhode Island veterinary practices to attract veterinarians to the state.

LoMonaco, a Coventry resident, said she joined RIVMA in 2017 to advocate for veterinarians. She began working at the Scituate Animal Hospital in 2014 after graduating from Binghamton University in New York and moving to Rhode Island.

RIVMA helps veterinarians and animal hospital support staff across the state through continuing education, animal welfare, and general veterinary practices.

Representatives also research state legislation relating to animals and veterinarians and decide whether to take a public stance on it or not.

“Being on the board opened my eyes to all the kinds of legislation that affects us and general practice,” LoMonaco said.

“It gives me perspective on being a vet, and how it affects the general community beyond being a general practitioner.”

At presemt, LoMonaco said she is focused on keeping veterinarians safe through the pandemic. She said it’s been a challenging year to be a vet.

LoMonaco said staffing has been an issue at her clinic and veterinarian hospitals across the state. She said the issue began before the pandemic, and was exacerbated by COVID.

“We never made a definition on how veterinarians should handle the pandemic,” she said.

More people adopted pets during the pandemic, adding to the overbooked system.

Many of the “pandemic puppies” are now having issues related to their families returning to work and school, and owners are seeking help with behavioral issues such as separation anxiety and problems from not being properly socialized, she said.

Though LoMonaco said it is a goal for RIVMA and veterinarians for people to get medical care for pets, it’s difficult to fit everyone in. During COVID, she said animal hospitals felt strapped for time and often booked appointments three to four weeks out.

That’s why making Rhode Island a contender for employment-seeking veterinarians is important to LoMonaco. She said she’d like to bring more veterinarians in from surrounding states, as well as retain veterinarians in Rhode Island by promoting client-veterinarian relationships and supporting professionals in the field.

LoMonaco said it is important to have a work-life balance, and allow veterinarians to live life outside of work.

“I think it’s really important to support veterinarians in the state and that as organization members, we’re here to support as much as possible,” she said.

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