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A One Health Approach: How to Incorporate a Bond Family Approach into SW Practice and Increase Access to Veterinary Care for Low-Income Families – Augusta O’Reilly, LCSW (she/her) and Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH (he/him)

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Social Work is a dynamic field where practitioners encounter a number of barriers and supports for an individual, family, or community. In this session, social workers and other mental health professionals will learn to address the human-animal bond, incorporate it into daily practice, and how to support the human-animal bond at a local, state, or national level. The human-animal bond is a powerful relationship, with more households having a pet(s) than children, however, many practitioners did not know how to utilize this bond which may lead to unforeseen barriers at the micro, mezzo and macro level.


As a result of attending this presentation, participants will be able to:

1. Identify the benefits of the human-animal bond;

2. To identify a role that social workers have in tending to the human-animal bond; and

3. Identify ways to support their clients who have non-human family members as a source of support.


Micro, mezzo, and macro-level social workers.


Augusta O’Reilly is an LCSW and VSW in Southern Maine who currently works as the Director of Veterinary Social Work for the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She is an instructor of Animal Assisted Interventions at the University of Tennessee in the Veterinary Social Work Certificate Program. She is a co-author in the textbook The Comprehensive Guide to Interdisciplinary Veterinary Social Work. She also provides VSW support to local veterinary clinics, shelters, and Not One More Vet. She recently became the Vice President of the International Association of Veterinary Social Work, where she helps expand the field and enjoys educating others about the VSW work being done worldwide.

Dr. Michael Blackwell currently serves as the Director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee. He is the founder of AlignCare Health, a One Health interprofessional system to improve access to veterinary care, especially for families with limited means. Previously, Dr. Blackwell served as: Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee Chief of Staff, Office of the Surgeon General of the United States Deputy Director, Center for Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration Chief Veterinary Officer, U.S. Public Health Service During 23 years on active duty with the U.S. Public Health Service, he achieved the rank of Assistant Surgeon General and Rear Admiral. Dr. Blackwell has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and two Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medals. He is the 2020 recipient of the Avanzino Leadership Award and the 2021 recipient of the Senator John Melcher, DVM Leadership in Public Policy Award.