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Rising Stars: Meet Aimee Mitchell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aimee Mitchell. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Created by co-founders, Beth Steinberg, Mary Justice, and Aimee Mitchell, Buckeye Paws launched on March 6, 2020, as a staff-focused certified therapy dog program within The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as a holistic approach to mental health and well-being. After a brief hiatus due to the unknown of Covid-19, Buckeye Paws returned in June 2020 after being deemed safe by our team of Epidemiologists, College of Vet Med, and Wexner Medical Center leadership. The dogs have been in the medical center since their return and the team continues to grow due to the popularity. On March 7, 2022, Buckeye Paws, with the approval of President Kristina M. Johnson, expanded certified therapy dog intervention to students, faculty, and staff of The Ohio State University. Our team of three handler/dog teams has grown to 30 and expect to have 60 handler/dog teams by December 2022. 

Beth Steinberg is currently conducting research to study the effects of therapy dogs on Wexner Medical Center staff’s mood, work engagement, overall happiness, and mental health. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. Before the program launched, co-founders Beth Steinberg and Mary Justice worked with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Epidemiologists, Accreditation, and Executive Leadership to ensure a strict policy was made to account for any potential issues. To ensure a safe environment, as well as peer-to-peer interactions, all handlers of the Buckeye Paws program are employees of The Ohio State University and Wexner Medical Center. They complete shadowings and fidelity checks. Their personal dogs are temperament tested and must be certified through Canine Good Citizen and Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Quarterly trainings ensure each dog is highly trained. 

As I briefly mentioned, this program was created before Covid-19. A week after the launch, Buckeye Paws was immediately shut down since we didn’t know if dogs are able to contract the virus or spread it. Thankfully, we have a wonderful team of Epidemiologists and College of Vet Med that were able to perform tests and ensure a safe return to the medical center. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My first day at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was October 1, 2019. I was hired as an Executive Assistant to Mary Justice, Nursing Administration. Towards the end of our first meeting, Mary said, “I have something weird to tell you about myself.” I leaned back in my chair. She said, “I have a therapy dog. His name is Shiloh and he is currently under my desk. I want to create a therapy dog program for the staff at the Wexner Medical Center.” Being an animal lover myself, I shrieked with excitement. I told her, “I’m all in, let me help you!” It’s been an incredible journey from being in those initial days of naming the program to creating the uniforms and now to see a team of 30 volunteer handler/dog teams. 

I am now the Program Coordinator of Buckeye Paws. I’m the only paid employee of the program. I handle everything on the backend of the program including operations, brand managements, and expansion opportunities. In my free time, I’m also in graduate school at the Fisher College of Business through The Ohio State University. 

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Organization. I’ve always been so proud of my organizational skills and it has been exceptionally important as the program continues to grow and develop. There are constant moving parts. Knowing the importance of being prepared for anything that may come our way has been necessary on our journey. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Lindsey Pfefferle
Buckeye Paws Photographer

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