Alumni Magazine Issue 4

C O M M U N I T Y Paw patrol For most people studying medicine, completing a PhD and holding down a teaching job would amount to a maximum workload, but Notre Dame Doctor of Medicine student Taryn Chalmers also finds time to run a charity bringing joy and laughter to the elderly. Just two years ago, Animals for All Care, which takes homeless dogs into aged care facilities across Sydney, had only one client and three volunteers. Today, the charity is working with 15 aged care facilities across the metropolitan area and has 23 volunteers on the books. “We’ve now been invited to expand into Queensland,” says Taryn, who is currently studying for her degree and teaching first, second and third year Science students at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) where she is also completing a PhD in Neuroscience which focuses on mental health, in particular depression, and is the research foundation for the charity. The charity has the backing and encouragement of the RSPCA which supplies dogs from its shelter and also trains volunteers in dog handling techniques. “The RSPCA is amazing,” she says. “I couldn’t ask to work with a better group of people.” The impetus for Animals for All Care came from the social justice component of her medical studies at Notre Dame – but rather than joining an existing charity, Taryn decided to launch something that would target the emotional and psychological needs of elderly people. While most human beings benefit from contact with a pet, such interactions have a very significant and lasting impact on the health of residents living in aged care facilities. “Stress is a major issue in aged care facilities, but when you hug a dog there is an exchange of oxytocin which in turn helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol,” says Taryn. “Happy residents live longer, eat better and suffer fewer falls.” Happy residents live longer, eat better and suffer fewer falls Taryn and Queenie on patrol Alumni Magazine – Page 8