HONOLULU (Dec. 14, 2012) -- To help promote resiliency among staff members, the Pacific Regional Medical Command's Care Provider Support Program will premiere "Dogs are Healers," at Tripler Army Medical Center, here, Dec. 20, at noon.

The short film focuses on the healing effect animals can have not only on patients but health care professionals.

At Tripler, the American Red Cross administers the Human Animal Bond program, which allows handlers and their furry companions to visit patients and staff at the hospital. These visits raise morale and increase resiliency, which help patients heal faster and help staff avoid fatigue and possible burn-out.

"I get as much out of these visits as the patients," said Liane Otsuka, a volunteer dog handler. "When you can visit a child in the hospital, and make them feel safer and more relaxed, it is just such a good feeling."

Otsuka said she is owned by her dog, Indiana Jones, more so than vice versa. Indiana, more commonly known as Indy, was recently named the 2012 American Red Cross Animal Hero of the Year.

In order to qualify for participation in TAMC's Human Animal Bond Program, or HAB, animals must pass all required health tests, a good citizenship test, and a host of other special behavioral tests to make sure they are the right match for a busy hospital environment.

Handlers must also go through Tripler's employee orientation and the American Red Cross qualification process.

Capt. Emily Corbin, a veterinarian who works at Fort Shafter, puts prospective candidates through a series of tests, for example, to make sure they don't startle as a result of sudden loud noises, don't react aggressively, and generally are good ambassadors of love.

"It's great when you see a patient who maybe hasn't been interacting with staff, just light up when an HAB dog comes into the room," Corbin said. "This is a real warm and fuzzy program."

Several studies show the benefits of working with animals in a therapeutic environment.

Animals can help lower blood pressure, decrease stress, improve mental outlook, shorten hospital stays, and increase engagement. The June 2012 issue of the Army Medical Department Journal devoted the entire issue to canine-assisted therapy in military medicine, with 16 articles reporting beneficial results.

"Interacting with animals is great for staff," said Richard Ries, resiliency subject matter expert, Care Provider Support Program, Pacific Regional Medical Command. "Just taking a moment to pause and pet a dog helps providers re-charge mentally and physically. Then they are better prepared for their next task. Sharing a moment of love with a four-footed friend can really bring you into the present. Bringing a smile to your face is good medicine."

Three other films will also be shown during the premiere highlighting the therapeutic benefits of working with horses; raising chickens; and Act Resilient, a training program that uses laughter and encourages working with animals as part of an overall wellness program.

Before the film premier starts, children from the Nix Performing Arts Center will perform. The film premiere is open to the public, and upon completion of the films, several subject matter experts on resiliency and the healing effect of animals will speak.

Pacific Regional Medical Command employees will receive credit for attending the event if they register in the Training Event System, or TES, beforehand.

Though the film program starts at noon, several handler-dog teams from Tripler's Human Animal Bond program will be dressed in their holiday best to take photos outside the Oceanside entrance beginning at 11:30 a.m.

(Editor's Note: Genie Joseph is an American Red Cross volunteer with Pacific Regional Medical Command's Care Provider Support Program.)