by Wyndi Kappes
For more than 20 years, Jennifer Morris has had one mission: saving animals. What began as an effort in her undergraduate years to provide medical care to shelter animals on the euthanization list has grown into her dedicating her life to nonprofit veterinary medicine as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Director of Veterinary Outreach at the Atlanta Humane Society (AHS). With her mission in mind and the love of her three pets (Louis the French bulldog, Kevin the Rottweiler and Marisol the rabbit), she’ll stop at nothing to aid Atlanta’s furry friends.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about the Atlanta Humane Society?
Jennifer Morris: Every person who works and volunteers there has a huge heart. Caring for healthy, fluffy puppies and kittens is only a small fraction of the work we do at AHS. We rescue animals from cruelty and hoarding situations and help pets when disasters strike. We also help other animal shelters with their needs like food, grants and veterinary care. We help pet owners with affordable veterinary care and pet food, and our shelter medicine teams work miracles to save sick and injured dogs and cats.
Q: Studies show that veterinarians have a three times higher suicide rate than the average American. How do you cope with mental health pressures?
JM: Mental health well-being has rightly become a focus for our profession in the last 10 years or so. Many veterinarians suffer from the same sorts of issues, such as anxiety, depression and panic disorder. I began seeing a therapist and taking medication about eight years ago, which has significantly improved my quality of life. I try to be open with my colleagues about my mental health struggles so they can feel more empowered than I was when I first sought help.
Q: Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the impact you’re making at a nonprofit. How do you stay motivated?
JM: I know that everything I do is directly related to our goals, which saves more animals. Luckily, I find my motivation staring right at me with a wagging tail.
Jennifer’s tips for those looking to get involved in the nonprofit world
Find a cause you’re passionate about and dive in.
Chat with current volunteers. Learn from their experiences to figure out where you’ll like volunteering and in what capacity.
Don’t get discouraged. If you don’t know something, just ask, and a staff member will be happy to help or guide you to the correct training.
Do your research. Look online to see all your volunteer options, but don’t be afraid to call your favorite nonprofit and ask how you can help.
Don’t be afraid to go it alone. Always remember that volunteers are priceless to an organization. Working with animals is great, too, because they don’t mind if you’re an introvert.