Canine ‘Chief Compassion Officer’ Maggie Works to Improve Mental Health

The labrador comes to Jefferson from veterans organization Leashes of Valor.
Dr. Marino and Maggie
Jefferson College of Nursing Dean Dr. Marie Ann Marino is Maggie’s trained handler.

On Veterans Day this year, Jefferson College of Nursing (JCN) celebrates and officially welcomes service dog, Maggie. Dubbed “chief compassion officer,” she encourages feelings of calmness and security for students, faculty and staff, as well as Jefferson’s academic and community partners.

Maggie came to JCN from Leashes of Valor, a Virginia-based nonprofit that connects veterans with trained service dogs to help mitigate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The labrador first visited campus last November as part of a panel discussion and Q&A with Leashes of Valor cofounders Jason Haag and Danique Masingill.

“Our goal is for Maggie to help mitigate moral injury and compassion fatigue and improve general mental health through companionship and affection,” says Dr. Marie Ann Marino, JCN dean and Maggie’s trained handler. 

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maggie’s arrival couldn’t be any timelier,” Dr. Marino says.

While helping students manage the day-to-day stress associated with academic life is an important job responsibility, that’s not all Maggie does. By being there for students, she helps them learn how to care for others by teaching them empathy, and to be particularly sensitive to the needs of patients suffering from PTSD and other disorders.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maggie’s arrival couldn’t be any timelier,” says Dr. Marino, a former Navy Nurse Corps Reservist. “These unprecedented times of uncertainty have demonstrated the need for an innovative tool to help the Jefferson College of Nursing family.”

Maggie has been trained to work in many settings and interacts with both individuals and groups depending on the situation and needs. She also will visit Jefferson Health and make rounds to see patients and employees once the pandemic is under control, Dr. Marino says.

While she won’t be physically clocking in, Maggie follows a daily schedule and has her own calendar, as she hopes to maintain a positive work-life balance. After all, at not even 2 years old, she’s Jefferson’s youngest (and dare we say, cutest) employee ever.

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