Project PUP brightens patients’ time at USF ALS Center

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Sadie, a rescue dog from Project PUP, makes friends with Matt June, a patient of the USF ALS Center.

Patients visiting the USF ALS Center on April 5 were greeted with a wagging tail and soulful eyes begging for attention.

Sadie, a senior rescue dog from PROJECT PUP (Pets Uplifting People), was on hand to spend some time with patients while they waited and even during their clinical time with doctors and staff at the multidisciplinary clinic.

The Center plans to make Sadie, and possibly other canine friends, part of a pet therapy program at its monthly clinic housed within the USF Health Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare, said Brittany Harvey, staff assistant and research support specialist for the ALS Center.

Sadie’s owner Christine Hamacher, a volunteer with Project PUP, said research has shown that interaction with good-tempered pets like Sadie can help calm the anxiety of patients and their families, who spend quite a bit of time being assessed by healthcare team members during their clinic appointments. “Just having her (Sadie) in the same room helps them to speak more comfortably and freely with doctors and staff,” Hamacher said.

Sadie may not know she’s doing all that.  Waiting in an exam room with patient Matt June and his wife Jackie, she appeared more than content to solicit hugs, get scratched behind her silky ears and dole out doggie kisses.

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Matt and wife Jackie June with Sadie

The USF ALS Center, directed by Dr. Tuan Vu, opened in October 2010 as the first multidisciplinary university clinic of its kind in Tampa Bay and all of Central and West Florida.

About 200 patients a year visit the clinic, which is dedicated to developing new and effective therapies for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Also, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the neurodegenerative disease progressively paralyzes the individual, attacking nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.  The USF ALS Center belongs to the world’s largest ALS research network, the Northeastern ALS Alliance.

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Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications