Ginger Passalacqua works hard to make sure area veterinarians are getting the information they need to help make animals healthier and happier.
Passalacqua is the referral coordinator of client services for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
She’s done several jobs since starting at the college in 2001, including secretary and managing the reception desk for the small and large animal clinics. In 2008, she became the senior coordinator for client services, serving as the primary contact for referring veterinarians. She began traveling to veterinary offices in 2013, now serving as referral coordinator. Before working at Vet Med, she worked for the department of astronomy and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Veterinarians from all over the state and parts of Indiana refer cases to the hospital. Veterinarians who refer cases to the U. of I. normally do so because the animal needs tests such as an MRI or a CT scan, which require large diagnostic machines.
Cases also could be referred to the U. of I. if a veterinarian can’t perform a specific treatment. Sometimes this means the animal will get rehabilitation at the hospital after treatment, and sometimes the animal will go back to the original veterinarian for rehabilitation.
Passalacqua discusses with veterinarians how they wish to proceed with certain patients they think might need to be transferred to the hospital. She helps people connect with U. of I. faculty members for consultations on difficult cases, and sometimes points clients to information on the website, such as maps and directions to the hospital.
Once a week, usually on Wednesdays, she takes trips to referring veterinarian offices to let them know what the hospital is doing. She said it’s fun, as the people she visits usually share stories about U. of I. faculty members.
Although her job doesn’t directly deal with animals, she said, “The animals will always be my favorite part.”
The hospital sees around 20,000 animals a year, including farm animals, horses, dogs, cats and exotic animals.
A favorite memory she has is when the hospital was able to help a couple get treatment for their dog.
Passalacqua said she was managing the front desk when the couple came in with a dog with a nasal issue. The recommended treatment was beyond their financial means.
Passalacqua approached the director at the time and asked if there were current funds to help out the couple. The hospital relies on donations to help people under these circumstances; nothing can be given out for free. The hospital had funds and was able to resolve the issue.
“I didn’t really think much about it. It was just something that I wanted to do to help these people out,” Passalacqua said.
When one of the owners came to pick up the dog, she hugged Passalacqua and started crying. “The woman said it was just the nicest thing, and they didn’t know what they were going to do. They were so sad, because they thought they were going to have to say goodbye,” Passalacqua said.
“It’s really hard to watch people have to make decisions because of money,” Passalacqua said. “Especially decisions they don’t want to make.”
Her love of animals extends to her personal life, too. She has a collie named Augustus, 2, a corgi puppy named Chip, 5 months, and a beta fish.
“I’m really trying hard not to get a guinea pig,” she said.
Passalacqua also is getting ready to go with members of the hospital Dec. 2 to the Wildlife Prairie Park in Hanna City, Illinois, to vaccinate and deworm bison and elk. Passalacqua won’t vaccinate any of the animals, but she’s excited to see how it all works and help in any way needed.
“They may just tell me to sit in the car. I’m not sure,” she laughed.
Outside of work, Passalacqua keeps busy. She has been a “big” in Big Brothers Big Sisters for more than a year. She enjoys reading true crime and running 5K races, and this past month she ran the Hot Chocolate 5K in Chicago. She enjoys making jewelry and walking her dogs.
Passalacqua wishes people knew how much everyone at the hospital loves their patients.
“There isn’t a puppy head that doesn’t get kissed. There isn’t a dog that doesn’t get a hello and a pat every day. They’re all cared for in the best possible way by people who I think care the most and want to do the most.”