Hanscom VTF welcomes new doc, offers more clinic days

  • Published
  • By By 1st Lt. Martha L. Petersante-Gioia
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
New faces come and go throughout the year at Hanscom as military personnel change stations or retire and civilian employees move to other assignments. Recently, the 66th Services Squadron welcomed a new face to the ranks of Hanscom's team.

The Doctor's In

Dr. Heather Mazzaccaro, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, came to Hanscom after recently separating from active duty in the Army.

With the addition of Dr. Mazzaccaro to its staff, the Hanscom Veterinary Treatment Facility now offers more appointments and will host clinic days on a regular basis. Additionally, limited sick calls will be available, in which clients can take an animal in for treatment of skin conditions, allergies, arthritis or ear infections.

In order to better serve the community, Dr. Mazzaccaro also offers her opinion to clients who want a second opinion on a certain diagnosis or if they want to have technical information about a diagnosis explained to them. "All they have to do is make an appointment," she said. "The office visit is free unless the client walks away with something [i.e. medications or vaccines]."

Dr. Mazzaccaro is also charged with ensuring the health and well-being of Hanscom's Military Working Dogs. "Our MWDs received full-service treatment from our facility," she said. "If we cannot treat the dog here, they are taken to the closest full-service facility. The dogs receive physicals twice a year, blood work yearly, their hips are examined every two years and I inspect their kennels on a regular basis.

"Also, we ensure the dog's health both pre- and post-deployment," the doctor said. "Handlers also receive training from us on first-aid for their dogs, which is critical in deployed locations where help may not be readily available."

Another duty Doctor Mazzaccaro performs on a regular basis is food safety inspections throughout the Northeast. "When personnel go shopping in our commissary, certain food items that are potentially hazardous, such as meat or dairy, have to come from an 'approved source.' Those foods would be inspected by the USDA however, inspectors cannot cover all of the production plants all of the time, especially smaller, more local facilities.

"An Army veterinary officer will go out and inspect those facilities. I've been to bottled water and ice cream production plants. The idea behind this is to make sure we have a safe food supply," she said.

Hanscom VTF services

"Currently, we are hosting clinic days where customers can make an appointment and bring their animal in for rabies, distemper, kennel cough, and feline leukemia vaccines," Doctor Mazzaccaro said. "As we expand our clientele and facility, we're looking at offering limited surgery capabilities, such as small tumor removal, in the future as our surgical suite is fixed up."

"Spays and neuters are not offered due to Army regulations," she said, "the only exception to this rule, is if the procedure is required to keep up [the veterinarians'] surgical competency."

Another little known bonus of the Hanscom VTF is they provide microchipping for a significantly lower cost than many local civilian facilities. "If you come here, the cost is $19, which includes the $17.50 registration fee. One of the local civilian clinics offers the exact same microchip for $128," said Army Sgt. Alicia Altman, Hanscom VTF noncommissioned officer in charge.

"This is extremely important to active-duty members who may PCS overseas, and as quarantine regulations become more and more complex, microchipping is the number one priority," the doctor said. "Also, a large majority of installations require animals living on-base to be microchipped."

For members planning on PSCing overseas and or to Hawaii, the clinic's staff offers assistance in decoding the "extensive quarantine regulations," Sergeant Altman said. "To beat quarantines without having your pet microchipped takes about eight to nine months. Anyone who is even remotely interested in living overseas should call and we'll set up a time to get the most current information."

Clients also receive a variety of benefits when using the VTF. In addition to being able to purchase heartworm and flea and tick preventative medications at bargain prices, the Hanscom VTF offers "great care and service at a reduced cost," Dr. Mazzaccaro said. "It's great to come in here, receive heartworm, flea and tick prevention, and all your dog's shots for under $100."

Customers are reminded to cancel appointments at least 24 hours in advance, Sergeant Altman said. "In the past, when we did not have a full-time vet, we had a 30 percent no-show rate. To combat this, we have instituted a waiting-list policy for any customer who does not show up for their scheduled appointment.

"Clients who do not show up for their appointments are placed on a space-available waiting list. If an appointment opens up, the client will receive a call and if the client cannot be reached, I continue right down the list," she said.

Potential clients are also reminded that the Hanscom VTF is not a full-service facility and is not set up for emergencies. "The majority of military veterinary treatment facilities are not full-service," Dr. Mazzaccaro said, "However, overseas and a select few locations throughout the United States are. Owners should always keep a relationship with a civilian vet or at least know where one is located for unexpected emergency situations or routine surgeries."

For those new to living on Hanscom, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be processed through the base VTF. "Per Hanscom installation regulations and Massachusetts state law, we have to ensure that all animals [dogs, cats and ferrets] living on base have a rabies vaccine," Sergeant Altman said.

"Rabies is present in Massachusetts," Dr. Mazzaccaro said. "Protect your animals and your family -- have your dog or cat vaccinated."

Additionally, for "those animals on this installation who are overdue for the rabies vaccine, there is space now for appointments. Call -- we'll get you in," Sergeant Altman said. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Sergeant Altman at (781) 377-3266.