Meet the CENTAUR Team

Dr. Bess J. Pierce

Dr. Bess Pierce

Dr. Bess J. Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences, was appointed director of CENTAUR in November 2011. She joined the faculty of the college in 2007 to lead the Community Practice service in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, leaving 15 years of active duty service in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps in a variety of assignments worldwide, including three years at the DoD Military Working Dog Veterinary Service in San Antonio, Texas. She remains an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve and is currently a colonel assigned as the Senior Veterinarian for the Public Health Command Region – Europe in Landstuhl, Germany.

Dr. Pierce earned a B.S. in biology from Tulane University in 1986, an M.Z.S. in wildlife biology in 1990 and a DVM from Auburn University in 1992. She is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (Canine/Feline Practice) and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Small Animal Medicine). Additionally, she received an advanced certificate titled "Animals and Human Health: A Certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy Activities and Learning" from University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work in 2010.

Dr. Pierce has extensive expertise in working and service dog health care, and in promoting strong handler/canine partnerships. Her primary research interests are canine sports medicine and rehabilitation, and the impact and utilization of animal assisted activities in military and law enforcement settings.

View Dr. Pierce's faculty biography page.

Dr. Virginia Corrigan

Dr. Virginia Corrigan and Yogi

We welcomed Dr. Virginia Corrigan to the college in 2013 as the house officer in the combined American Board of Veterinary Practitioners canine-feline residency and master's degree in human animal bond studies program.

Dr. Corrigan is a 2010 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a one year rotating internship at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado and then spent two years at the Small Animal General Practice and Emergency Animal Medical Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina as an associate veterinarian.

Dr. Corrigan has an interest in the human animal bond, the role of the animal partner in Animal Assisted Activities, and promoting fitness and wellness through human-animal interactions. She is a member of the AVMA Future Leaders Program and was the recipient of the 2008 John C. New, Jr. Award for Promotion of the Human-Animal Bond.

Dr. Corrigan is the proud pet parent of Yogi, a 7-year-old male golden retriever trained and certified through Therapy Dogs International.

View Dr. Corrigan's biography page.

“Dr.” Delaware

Dr. Delaware

In 2011, an opportunity opened to CENTAUR to incorporate a service dog into the daily activities of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH). We welcomed the first canine member of the CENTAUR team, "Dr." Delaware, an eight-year-old female black lab who had retired from her service duties as a guide dog for the seeing impaired.

She is part of the first in-residence therapy canine team at the college, through a unique program at the VTH. The in-residence canine team is utilized in a number of Animal-Assisted Activity (AAA) settings throughout the college and hospital as a member of the VT Helping PAWS program. Currently, Delaware is in-residence for visitation duties at the VTH three times per week, and attends other events routinely. She is also the first therapy dog to engage in counseling sessions at Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center.

The ultimate goal for the canine AAA team is to provide the gold-standard model for training, utilization and caring for a therapy animal. "Dr." Delaware helps students, faculty, staff, and clients learn about the principles of animal assisted activities and therapies. On her days off duty, she enjoys semi-retirement under the care of CENTAUR Director, Dr. Bess Pierce.



Yogi is a 6-year-old Golden Retriever. He was rescued at 2.5 years of age in Colorado. He earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dogs International certifications in 2013 and joined the VT Helping PAWS therapy dog team in July 2013.

Yogi spends several days per week at the veterinary college, providing happiness and comfort to faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, he spends one day per week at Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center and one day per month at the Blacksburg Library participating in the PAWS To Read program.

Yogi's favorite activities, outside his therapy dog work, include chasing tennis balls, swimming, hiking, and taking long naps on the couch. Yogi belongs to Dr. Virginia Corrigan and her husband, Nick.

Advisory Committee

The center has a growing team of core faculty members and research partners supporting its mission. Its advisory committee represents a collaborative team of experts in various fields, including:

  • Professor of clinical services in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Dr. John Ryan
    Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech
  • Dr. Sandra Barker
    Professor of psychiatry and Bill Balaban Chair in Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction
  • Dr. Cindy Otto
    Associate professor of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and interim director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center
  • Professor Philip Tedeschi
    Clinical professor at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work and clinical director of the Institute for Human Animal Connection.

Additional Faculty

  • Vicki Arbuckle
    PMHNP, Assistant Director of Psychiatry, Cook Counseling Center, Virginia Tech
  • Dr. Trent Davis
    Licensed Professional Counselor, Cook Counseling Center, Virginia Tech
  • Professor and Head, Department of Population Health Sciences, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Dr. Kathy Hosig
    Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences and Director of the Center for Public Health Practice and Research, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Christine Dennis Smith
    MSW, LCSW, Co-Director of Services, Virginia Tech Women's Center
  • Amber Wenderlich
    Staff Counselor, Cook Counseling Services, Virginia Tech