Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, professor and large animal internal medicine specialist in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, has been appointed the new director of the Center for Animal Human Relationships (CENTAUR).

Founded in 2004, CENTAUR is an academic center that conducts instructional, research, and outreach programs designed to foster a greater understanding of the mutual benefits associated with the human-animal interaction. The center promotes the education of veterinary and health care professionals and the general public through such programs as advanced residency training, Kids’ Tech University, and Governor’s School.

The center also conducts research into the animal-human interface and therapy animal welfare while serving the community through various programs, such as dog and cat certification for Animal Assisted Activities and support services for bereaved clients facing pet loss.

“As part of the Virginia Tech community, CENTAUR is uniquely positioned to organize and execute collaborative studies that contribute to the growing body of information which recognizes the benefit of animal interaction on human mental and physical health,” said Buechner-Maxwell, who has been a member of the center's advisory board since 2012 and earned an advanced certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy Activities and Learning from the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work.

She added, “Since animals are a central element of the program, maintaining good health in these partners is essential to the program's success. As veterinarians, we are also committed to assessing the impact of these programs on the animals, and developing better and more sensitive methods for detecting and treating health problems as they arise.”

As the center's new director, Buechner-Maxwell plans to expand the organization's research activities to better understand and document the benefits of the animal-human relationship while continuing to maintain the already established programs. Because of her background in large animal medicine, Buechner-Maxwell is particularly interested in studying the impact of equine-assisted programs on human health. She also hopes to enhance collaborative efforts at the center.

Buechner-Maxwell completed a bachelor's degree in biology and secondary education from Goucher College in 1976, a master’s degree in cell and molecular biology in 1987, and a doctor of veterinary medicine from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987. She also earned a second master’s degree in veterinary clinical medicine from the veterinary college in 1991. Buechner-Maxwell also completed an equine surgery and medicine internship from Chino Valley Equine Hospital in Chino, California, and an equine internal medicine residency from Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia. In 1994, she achieved Diplomate status from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Written by Kelsey Foster, a master’s degree student in the Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

Share this story