International Programs

Maribel Munoz

Morocco

I spent two and a half weeks of my summer doing an externship at the American Fondouk in Fez, Morocco. The American Fondouk is a non-profit veterinary hospital established in 1927. It sees anywhere from 50-80 animals per day, and up to 20,000 animals per year. They focus on large animal species, such as donkeys, mules, and horses, and also on smaller ruminant species like sheep and goats. They also see a small number of small animal patients. Considering that Fez is the largest car-free urban area in the world, many of the people living there rely heavily on the backs of their working animals and the labor that they provide to sustain their families. Therefore, Fondouk’s mission is to provide free veterinary care, while providing guidance on nutrition and handling, all while trying to improve the lives of the animals, particularly the working animals. The Fondouk also strives to positively impact the economic stability and lives of the families who depend on these animals.
The Fondouk is a full service animal hospital equipped with an on-site laboratory for diagnostics and a small surgical facility, as well as x-ray machine.  The language spoken at the hospital is mostly French and Arabic, but the veterinarians and some of the technical staff speak English and often help to translate. 

My work at the Fondouk was from Monday through Friday with my mornings starting at 7:30am, which was when we started receiving patients. Under the guidance of two American veterinarians, veterinary technical staff, and a farrier, we were able to examine and treat as many animals as we could until noon. We would return to perform surgeries and do treatments on any of our inpatients at 2pm until we were finished in the late evenings, at which point we would have rounds. Any overnight patients were student responsibility and we would do treatments throughout the night as needed.  

During my time there, I learned how to perform physical exams on hundreds of equine and small ruminant species. Considering that I had little to no equine experience, this was a huge learning experience for me.  By the time I left I had become much more comfortable working with mules, donkeys, and horses than I ever imagined I would. I learned how to put in stomach tubes, rectal horses and mules, suture wounds, perform dentals, practice venipuncture and putting in catheters, take radiographs, perform lameness exams and practice nerve blocks, and work up cases. I even got the opportunity to perform an enucleation surgery on a cat. We saw an abundance of colic cases in the equine species, so many of us had the opportunity to work up these patients as our own and follow through with their progression.  We were also able to perform necropsies on any euthanized animals, which was a great learning experience for everyone.  Just because of the large amount of animals that we saw on a daily basis, this experience turned out to be an enormous educational and hands-on opportunity for me. The veterinarians are great at showing you how to do things and lead you in working up your cases. As a student, you really do get a lot of patient responsibility. At the end of my externship I had to present a PowerPoint presentation on a relevant topic or case at the Fondouk.

The American Fondouk offers on site housing with other international students, which is free. During my stay there I had the pleasure of living with two German and two Minnesota veterinary students.   In the evenings, students are able to venture through the beautiful medina in Fez, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great place to eat, learn about the culture, and shop. On the weekends, we traveled to nearby towns and tourist attractions. By the end of the trip, after working, traveling, and eating together, we all became very good friends who will keep in contact for years to come.

Overall my experience at the American Fondouk was truly invaluable. I feel so privileged to have been a part of such a helpful volunteer service to the Moroccan community.  Externing at the Fondouk was an incredible, unforgettable experience for my future career and also because we were truly making a difference in the lives of animals and the people of Morocco. Thank you International Programs for such an amazing opportunity!   For more info check out http://www.mspca.org/americanfondouk/.