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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Students Share Insights on Nicaragua

September 21st, 2012

Daphne Johnson, Class of 2014, and Dr Joe Snyder help a young resident of Merida, Nicaragua with his pig.

This year marked the 6th annual OSU International Veterinary Service Brigade trip to Merida, Nicaragua on the beautiful island of Ometepe.  Over the past six years this program has continued to grow and capture the hearts of many students and volunteer veterinarians.  In addition to the record number of participants, records were also set in numbers of patients seen and surgeries performed.  For those interested in participating, this trip offers more than experience with patient care and surgery. At least one day is reserved for exploring this tropical island and learning about local Nicaraguans.  There are also great research project opportunities.  Whatever facet of veterinary medicine interests you, you will find an outlet on this trip.

Our temporary clinic, hosted in coordination with a local hostel, operated for six days and treated over 750 animals, including 90 small animal surgeries.  The clinic offered large and small animal wellness exams, small animal spays and neuters (dogs and cats), large animal castrations (horses and pigs), equine dentals and farm calls.  Having an exotic vet along with us, made it possible for the clinic to treat some squirrels, chickens and rabbits.  A total of eleven veterinarians volunteered their time as mentors including faculty members Drs. Montilla and Tornquist; small animal surgery resident Dr. Spina; mixed animal vets Drs. Lamielle, Nelson, Snyder and Luddy; small animal vets Drs. Magruder, Addie and Hedge; and exotic vet Dr. Stegeman.  We also had a veterinary technician join us from OSU Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Hospital, Lisa Aguilera.

With IVSA’s mission being to offer quality veterinary care and public health education to areas in need, while encouraging students to gain practical experience, participate in cultural exchange and share their gained knowledge with the greater OSU CVM community, it is no surprise that we participated in local tourism and tried to understand the local population.  Some of us visited the San Ramon waterfall either by foot or on horseback.  Others hiked Maderas Volcano or visited the beautiful clear waters of Ojo de Agua.  One trip participant remembers a conversation with the children who owned a horse we were treating. As he tried to find out which of their animals were their favorite and why they chose certain names, all they wanted to talk about was his trip on the plane and what everything looked like from up there.  This experience stuck with him and has made him appreciate how lucky he was participate.  Another participant spoke with one of our translators and he gave her an insight about how the local people feel about our organization.  He said that they look forward to our visit every year and that they look at every one of us as doctors even though most of us were students.  Lastly, we all made the observation that this trip helped us to grow as students of veterinary medicine because we are faced with a less than optimum clinical environment.  This allows us to develop our critical thinking skills and learn how to adapt.  This experience benefits not only the community members of Merida, Nicaragua, but also the OSU IVSA community.

The rural community of Merida does not have access to veterinary care.  They look forward to our visit every year because they rely on their animals for food, transportation and work.  Since the livelihood of the community is directly impacted by the health of their animals, we conduct a public health seminar every year in order to educate the public on proper hygiene and zoonotic diseases.  There are also research projects going on every year in order to find solutions to some of the common disease conditions in the area.

This trip is entirely student planned and executed, we rely heavily on fundraising and charitable donations from the Oregon Veterinary Community.  Over 18 clinics and individuals donated veterinary supplies, including our own OSU Student Teaching Hospital.  We graciously received donations from 13 corporations, including Bayer, Bimeda, Butler-Schein Animal Health, Farnham, Hills, The Honest Kitchen, Idexx, Merck, MWI, Novartis, Oxbow, Powerfloat Inc, and Purina.  The 35 monetary donations we received from clinics, individuals and through our Adopt-An-Animal Program helped us purchase additional medical supplies.  Even with all these donations, each student contributed part of the additional funding needed to run the clinic.

Every year this trip gets better and better, achieving higher goals and reaching more people.  This is an opportunity of a lifetime to not only experience a different climate and culture, but to help these animals that so badly need our care.  It is also a chance to experience really challenging veterinary medicine in interesting conditions.  We invite you to challenge yourself next summer and join OSU IVSA in Ometepe and bring something home with you.  If you would like to learn more about IVSA or the Adopt-An-Animal program please visit our website at http://groups.oregonstate.edu/ivsa/adopt-animal and like us (OSU Nicaragua Veterinary Brigade) on Facebook.

Jill Ollivant, Class of 2015
IVSA Publicity Chair

See lots of great photos from the OSU IVSA trip to Nicaragua on the Veterinary Brigade’s Facebook page.


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