Auburn nursing dean hosting golf outing to benefit animal-assisted therapy program

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Auburn University School of Nursing Dean Gregg Newschwander is hosting a golf outing to raise funds for an alternative therapy area in the school's new building, currently being constructed on campus.

The event will be held on Friday, March 11, at Opelika's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National, with a shotgun start scheduled for 8 a.m.

The specialized area in the new building will serve the school's animal-assisted therapy program, Canines Assisting Rehabilitation and Education, better known as CAREing Paws. Assistant Professor Stuart Pope started the program four years ago as a way for students to learn about animal-assisted therapy through classroom teaching and hands-on clinical experiences.

The area will provide space that is vital for student training, the dogs' opportunities to interact with others, and the school's ability to complete research projects on campus with student participation.

Nursing students recognize the benefits this type of therapy has on children with chronic illnesses, adults in nursing homes and medical centers, and individuals diagnosed with mental health issues. The program works with two dogs Miller, a golden retriever, and Choa, a yellow Labrador retriever, for therapy visits.

"The program made me realize the important role animals, especially dogs, can play in people's lives," explained senior nursing student Audrey Pattillo. "They bring feelings of love and companionship that cannot be fulfilled from anything else. And they do an incredible job of lifting the spirits of those who are suffering from illness."

"Students leave Auburn with a degree in nursing and also the understanding of what animal-assisted therapy can do in diverse health care settings," added Pope. "Our nursing students learn that the human-animal bond helps patients heal emotionally, socially, mentally and physically."

Caroline Quick, a student in Pope's class last semester, noted that "every nursing student at Auburn has benefited from Miller and Choa." She admitted that the dogs helped her through stressful situations and is considering adopting one of her own to train for therapy.

Mary Margaret Burch also enrolled in Pope's class before earning her nursing degree in 2013. The mother of two children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder said she witnessed firsthand how Miller and Choa helped her children.

Burch said her son struggled socially as a six-year-old, but spending time with the dogs helped him open up. Burch said her daughter was a hyperactive four-year-old, but the dogs brought calmness into the room that allowed her to manage her behavior.

"As a mom, it gave me such joy to see my kids 'connecting' and expressing their joy in such a real way," she said. "They sometimes seemed so disconnected from others, but Miller and Choa helped bridge that gap."

Participants in the golf outing can register and have photographs taken with Miller and Choa starting at 7 a.m., on March 11. Lunch and the presentation of awards will begin at 1 p.m.

For more information about being a sponsor, signing up individually or as a team, visit or contact Christy Tanner at or (334) 844-7390.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.