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New to the CVM Family: Meet Rebecca Maher

Rebecca Maher, clinical social worker at the NC State Veterinary Hospital
Rebecca Maher, clinical social worker at the NC State Veterinary Hospital. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Rebecca Maher is no stranger to the NC State Veterinary Hospital. The Durham resident was involved with the development of the hospital’s ethics committee, bringing with her more than 20 years of experience as a clinical ethics consultant. 

With a background working in human hospitals, Maher, a licensed clinical social worker who holds a master’s in social work, is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to the veterinary world. She will be working with clients, faculty and staff as part of the NC State Hospital’s family and community services

What made you want to work in social work?

I originally went into clinical social work to support adults with severe and persistent mental illness being reintroduced to the community. I interned at UNC pediatrics and discovered my love of working in an academic hospital setting, which allows me to engage in meaningful work and indulge in my passion of being a lifelong learner.

What do you do in your role?

I will be working with clients who bring their companion animals here and might benefit from additional support. 

I will also be supporting the medical teams who are working through diagnosis and treatment options who might need consultation on navigating the best ways to engage with their clients. I will also be actively involved in supporting the work of the ethics committee. 

In each of these roles, I will be focusing on engaging the inherent resiliency of clients, faculty and staff who are focused on providing excellent and compassionate care for the patients here. 

What are you most excited about in this role?

I’m feeling very grateful to be joining the team at the NC State Veterinary Hospital. I truly feel honored to work with the individuals who have chosen to stand in courage and work as healers. 

At this stage of my career, I’m excited to have the opportunity to share with this community some of the wisdom I have acquired over years of working with patients who cannot speak for themselves, those who are their voice and those who provide care, with a goal of honoring the bond that weaves them all together. 

There’s great strength in this community and I hope to be a part of that.

What is your background?

Before coming to NC State, I was a clinical social worker in pediatrics at Duke University Hospital, with time in the newborn intensive care unit and pediatric intensive care unit, in administration and many years on the ethics clinical consult team. 

My most recent work at Duke University involved creating a model to help provide real-time support to team members throughout the hospital and clinics, with the goal of helping them cope after their exposure to disruptive and distressing events.  

I also taught at the UNC School of Social Work and have done disaster work, focusing on providing crisis and grief counseling to community members and first responders. Post-9/11, I worked with the Red Cross and with the North Carolina Health Department providing support in eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd. I also completed North Carolina’s state medical assistant team training and was the team lead of the Duke medical community’s critical incident response team. 

My clinical interests include communication of difficult information to surrogate decision makers, supporting medical team resiliency and helping people find meaning in death-related decisions.

What’s something someone would be surprised to learn about you?

Once when navigating a boat in a storm between the mainland and an island in Nova Scotia, where my family had a falling-down farmhouse, I was guided away from the rocks by a dolphin who stayed with me until I was in the clear. I always appreciate being reminded of wonder when connection is made between sentient beings.

When you’re not on campus, where could we find you?

I’m spending time with family, learning to use my newest camera in preparation for a trip to Iceland, bird watching or shell hunting at the coast. 

Do you have any pets?

I have a goldendoodle named Tinker and two cats who were my mom’s. Our Norwegian forest cat is named Magge and our Birman is named Boo Radley. 

I’ve also had lots of different pets throughout the years with my kids. They run the gamut from tree frogs and lizards to mice and parakeets.

Anything else people should know?

My door is always open. I hope that no one ever feels like they are bothering me. I’d love for anyone and everyone to come by my office.


Visit thefamily and community services page for more information about resources available for clients and pet owners.