New Outdoor Park Allows Pets to Join the Healing Process at Northeast Georgia Medical Center

Published: Monday, November 10, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Ga. – Jim Moore, chairman of The Medical Center Foundation, recently announced that Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) will soon be one of few hospitals in the country to offer patients a very intimate and personal experience to be comforted by their own pet in a one-of-a-kind outdoor park.  The project complements NGMC’s long-standing inpatient pet therapy program and is made possible through a signature gift to The Medical Center Foundation by Murray and Daphne David.

Healing goes beyond the bedside at NGMC due in part to The Medical Center Foundation’s commitment to totally fund outdoor donor gardens and spaces that create an environment of hope, healing and wellness for patients, their families, staff and visitors.

“An unexpected time away from a pet can be traumatic and stressful for both the pet and their family.  NGMC’s care teams encourage pet visits knowing the results often reduce stress and tremendously lift a patient’s spirits,” says Nancy Colston, president and chief development officer for The Medical Center Foundation.  “We are incredibly grateful for the David’s very thoughtful and meaningful donation.”

“I wondered what Murray and I would do if we experienced a hospital stay that kept us from our animals for an extended period of time,” said Daphne David.  “We wanted to offer our community a safe and happy place just outside the doors of the hospital allowing owners to reunite with their pets as well as give clinicians an outdoor option for conducting pet therapy.”

The future 3,200 square-foot garden-like visitation area is located outside the South Tower and near the inpatient rehabilitation unit.  The space features a five-foot-high fence, controlled access gate, handicap access, fresh water station, seating and much shade for pets and patients alike.  Oversized, colorful planters with pet-safe plantings will sit on the bluestone patio and walkway, while the carefully chosen slate chips and dwarf mondo grass will be gentle on paws.  The David’s donation includes a maintenance endowment ensuring long term sustainability of the space.

Studies have found pet owners benefit tremendously from interaction with their pets – both physically and psychologically.  In fact, the American Heart Association linked the ownership of pets, especially dogs, with a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity.

“Perhaps the most pertinent finding to support our research and dedication to this park at NGMC is that playing with a pet can help elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are known to calm and relax,” says Colston. “In situations where patients are already under physical and perhaps emotional stress, we are thrilled to provide a serene atmosphere to help both the patient and pet reconnect.  It is our goal to help heal our patients from the inside out.”

Plans for the pet park are currently underway, with construction and opening slated for 2015. 

For more information about this gift and other opportunities, please contact Maggie James, signature gifts officer of The Medical Center Foundation, at 770-219-8120 or