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International Veterinary Outreach Goes To Jiquilillo, Nicaragua

March 9, 2012

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Veterinary student David Kim examines a child's pet during a visit to Nicaragua in December 2011 to help provide care in underserved communities.

March 9, 2012

The following article is based on an item written by Class of 2014 student Eric Eisenman for the newsletter of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Eisenman is one of several UC Davis veterinary students interested in contributing to international veterinary activities in Nicaragua.

International Veterinary Outreach Goes To Jiquilillo, Nicaragua

by Eric Eisenman, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2014

January 25th, 2012

It was December 16th 2011, and we had just finished our fifth and final day of clinics in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua.  I had just jumped into the Pacific to cool down from a surprisingly short week and was sitting with the rest of the group, indulging in scrumptious fresh fish, rice, beans, and salad.  It had been a long road to get where we were, and it was just starting to sink in that we had made a major accomplishment for the animals of Nicaragua. 

The idea of starting a student-run international veterinary organization came to me in March 2011, during a presentation by Dr. Richard Bachman.  He spoke about his experience working with Oregon State’s IVSA program that organizes veterinary trips to Nicaragua.  I asked myself: If OSU can have an international student-run program, why doesn’t my university (UC Davis) have one?

Prior to veterinary school I volunteered in Latin America with numerous organizations, but I had never organized a major project like what they were doing at OSU.  I researched to see what it would take to start a program like this.  I talked with fellow classmates to gauge their levels of interest and contacted Dr. Susan Monger, International Program Director for HSVMA-RAVS, for insight and recommendations.  It was when fellow classmates started showing their incredible support that I knew we could do this as a team.

We looked for a location abroad where we would be able to maximize our impact.  Dr. Monger led me to Don Montgomery and Gerry Caceres, the business partners running Monty’s Beach Lodge in Jiquilillo.  Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere, but that doesn’t stop Don and Gerry from working on humanitarian projects such as building schools, a medical clinic, a fire department, a community center, etc.  After my first chat with Don, I immediately recognized his genuinely philanthropic nature.  Don informed us about canine overpopulation in the community and the lack of available veterinary care.

Over the summer Dr. Eric Davis, former RAVS Director and now RVETS Director, informed me of his interest in our program, and from this point on he would serve as our invaluable mentor.  Students started focusing on more specific roles like budget, fundraising, inventory, logistics, permits, etc.  We submitted paperwork to start the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, under the name International Veterinary Outreach (IVO).

Fall quarter was in full throttle when the group decided to plan a recon trip for December.  We received support from HSVMA, Boehringer Ingelheim, and CP Medical.  Dr. Davis helped us fill in the gaps with needed supplies and helped the students prepare most other aspects of the trip.   Gerry was preparing for us by driving up and down Jiquilillo’s only road with a megaphone, notifying community members.  We were all packed up with appropriate veterinary supplies and equipment when we checked in at San Francisco International Airport.  Our partners in Nicaragua were to pick us up the following afternoon in Managua.

We arrived to Monty’s Beach Lodge right before the sun set behind the ocean and geared up for our first day of clinics.  The next morning, we set up our clinic at the community center in Jiquilillo, which consisted of a shipping container with an extra roof extended over it.  By the time we were set up, there were already people patiently waiting with their dogs.  Students triaged, performed physical exams, and gave appropriate vaccinations and treatments.  We were well received by the community and we were doing what we came there to do!

Our next four clinical days were split between the communities of Jiquilillo and Padre Ramos.  Everyday people trickled in with their pets, some of them being very difficult cases.  We saw a total of 171 animals.  Most of them were dogs (162), but we also saw some cats (6), a pig, a horse, and a cow.  Most dogs and cats received vaccinations and treatments for internal and external parasites.  Under Dr. Davis’ supervision and guidance, we performed 20 spay/neuter surgeries, and chemotherapy for four transmissible venereal tumors.  We treated a variety of medical conditions, greatly increasing the quality of life for the animals.

Now we were at dinner and the team was celebrating the completion of our first trip.  Once again, Dr. Davis led the group in another rounds discussion.  We were already talking about the next trip, the future of the program, and how we can continue to serve the animals in Jiquilillo.  It was the end of the beginning, and the hardest part was over.  It had been an amazing learning experience and we were ready to share it with more of our colleagues because they will be the next generation of veterinary students to pass the torch.

International Veterinary Outreach (IVO) is a student-run nonprofit organization that provides free veterinary care to underprivileged communities abroad, allows veterinary students to develop clinical skills and build intercultural relationships, and promotes animal welfare with community education.