International Programs

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Peru - HSVMA

This summer I volunteered in Peru with the Humane Society of Veterinary Medicine Association (formerly known as RAVS).  HSVMA is a non-profit organization that is a division of the Humane Society of the United States. HSVMA’s goal is to provide community outreach and veterinary services to underserved rural communities where poverty and geographic isolation make regular veterinary care inaccessible. The HSVMA staff is very dedicated to providing a learning environment in which future veterinarians can gain practical skills while under careful supervision.

Our team was very diverse and consisted of a mixture veterinarians and vet students from all over the world, including USA, Peru, Costa Rica, Australia, and Scotland.  During these adventurous two weeks my team members and I were nomads, traveling to remote villages surrounding the Cusco region of the Peruvian Andes. Our mobile veterinary unit spent between 1 and 3 days in each location depending on the expected caseload to be seen there. We traveled to worksites either by foot or stack into small buses. Sleeping accommodations included either hostels or camping in tents. Electricity, showers, and toilets were scarce and not available in every town we served, but the food was plentiful and always delicious!

Our patient population was compromised of horses and mules with a small number of donkeys.  In the rural communities we visited, people use their equids for transportation and as pack animals to carry their food and other necessities, such as building materials.  Growth of tourism in the region has many of these equids packing tourists’ luggage and equipment along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu or carrying tourists on trail rides throughout the Sacred Valley. No veterinary services exist in these rural areas of Peru. In addition to a lack of resources, there is also a very serious lack of education on proper animal husbandry and humane animal handling. The program emphasizes teaching the members of the communities how to better utilize their resources to care for their animals, which in turn gives them more productive animals and improves their livelihood.

We treated about 70-120 equids per workday adding up to about 750 in total. We provided general care though vaccination, deworming, dental work, and hoof care. In addition, we also preformed surgeries such as castrations, wound debridement, mass removal, and an eye enucleation. As a student, you are in charge of your patients and the doctors are there to supervise and provide any assistance and guidance that you need.  This system helps promote learning to work autonomously, being well prepared for procedures, and critical thinking. Rounds on important or unique cases were discussed every night over dinner and were a great supplement to our hands on learning during the day.

HSVMA has been going to Peru for 10 years and this particular site for 3 years now. There have been dramatic improvements in the animals’ conditions in the communities that have received care. According to returning volunteers the body condition scores of the animals have improved; which we can easily attribute to dental care and deworming. The number of clients that come to the clinics has increased over the years, and the number of clients receptive to castrations has also drastically increased. HSVMA is an organization that is extremely effective and who works closely with the community to make sure it is assisting their needs. I am tremendously pleased with the experience I received on this trip and I hope to be closely involved with HSVMA for many years to come.