This summer I traveled to Fez, Morocco to work for a month and a half at the American Fondouk, a veterinary hospital that provides free veterinary care to over 20,000 animals a year. In addition to offering acute care, the hospital also strives to improve the health of Moroccan animals by providing instruction and guidance in nutrition and husbandry, which in turn improves the lives of the Moroccan people who depend on many of these animals for their livelihoods.
At the American Fondouk, I was able to assist the head veterinarian, Dr. Denys Frappier, and his technicians with almost any work I felt capable of doing. The hospital treats a wide variety of animals-from the horses, donkeys, and mules that Moroccans use for transportation and harvesting crops, to the sheep necessary for milk and clothing, to small animals such as dogs, cats, and birds. Â I even saw a lethargic chameleon and a turtle with a broken carapace. While working at the hospital, we saw between 50 and 100 animals a day, taking incoming patients in the morning and performing treatments and surgeries in the afternoon. The sheer volume of patients and range of cases to which I was exposed provided an incredible learning environment. Among many opportunities to gain clinical skills, I was trained to perform nerve blocks on horses, mules, and donkeys to assess lameness; I learned how to inject local anesthesia and suture lacerations (which I could do independently by the end of my stay); and I saw parasites that I hope never to see in the U.S., such as Babesia, Leishmania, and Oestrus ovis.
Many students from around the world volunteer at the Fondouk, so I had the privilege to meet and work with vet students from France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Canada while I was there. We were all able to stay in the student quarters within the walled compound of the hospital, so housing was convenient and free. We worked, lived, cooked, explored the city, and even traveled the country together, so I left the Fondouk with friends who I will be in contact with for years.
Finally, my trip to Morocco also afforded a fascinating look at another culture. Fez, the city in which the Fondouk is located, contains the largest contiguous car-free urban area in the world, and the old city, known as the medina, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the medina, the streets can be as narrow as the width of a person. Because of the lack of modern transportation, everything that is transported into, out of, or through the medina travels on the back of a donkey, mule, or man. These donkeys and mules that bear the burdens of the 250,000 people that live in the Fez medina are the primary patients for whom the American Fondouk was founded. They are emaciated, parasite-ridden, and often covered in scars and lacerations. They work harder than any animal should, and while their owners depend on them for their livelihoods, they often don't treat their animals like they want them to live out the year.
But it was an honor to be a part of the effort to help these animals, and because the services provided by the Fondouk are so invaluable to the people of Morocco, a great respect for those who work there came with it. This was a unique opportunity to assist a tremendous number of animals and people who greatly depend on the services of this hospital. I believe I evolved as both a person and as a future veterinarian through my experiences in Morocco.
Feel free to contact me or to visit the American Fondouk's website for more information: Fondouk