Get to Know Karen Greene: Spreading the Power of Pets

“I don’t care how much dog hair I get on me.”

That’s one of Karen Greene’s favorite student comments from the many times she has brought emotional support therapy dogs to NEOMED.

“There are so many visits that are memorable in so many ways. Some of the students I have visited with over the years say, ‘I really miss my doggies at home,’ or ‘It’s really OK if they give me a kiss.’ They all say that the dogs make them feel better, especially around exam time,” reports Greene, who is the business manager for the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences.

Since 2009, Greene has worked with the Wags for Wellness program at University Hospital Portage Medical Center, which provides emotional support through animal-assisted therapy. Through the program, she has brought animals to NEOMED for events open to the public (Body and Beyond Health Fair), especially for students (the DeStress Fest, shown in photo above) and for University employees (Bring your Child to Work Day). Greene has been employed at NEOMED since 1992. She likes working in a place where students not only learn compassion but also receive it through animal visits at times when they appreciate some extra warmth.

And any time Greene brings in therapy dogs, Paul Lecat, M.D., professor of internal medicine, family and community medicine, and pediatrics makes time to stop by, she says.

Greene’s husband, Bruce, also enjoys working with therapy dogs, and in 2013 the two – known as the Greene Team – were recognized with the NEOMED Community Service Award.

A calming effect

Greene has had powerful experiences taking animals to University Hospital Portage Medical Center, too, she says.

“One memorable moment was when I was visiting with a patient in the hospital and witnessed their blood pressure dropping dramatically when the dog came into their room to visit with them,” says Greene. “Dogs really do have a calming effect on people. The dog’s presence in the patient rooms seem to change the environment from being stressful to a much happier place. For just a moment, the patient isn’t thinking of their illness.”

The perennially smiling Greene points to her involvement with Pet Partners, a national non-profit that promotes animal-assisted therapy, as well as with the local Wags for Wellness program, as key ingredients to happiness in her own life.

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