A line of Nicaraguans and their pets grew outside a small house, each person waiting in the midday sun for their dog or cat to be seen by a veterinarian.
Inside, a row of metal surgical tables filled a room with anesthesia machines next to each of them. Veterinarians in blue scrub suits loomed over dogs that laid unconscious on each of the tables, snouts opened wide and tongues hanging out. The dogs’ spay and neuter surgeries were underway.
Containers with sterilized medical tools and supplies lined the room’s salmon-colored back wall, its only decoration a poster that read “World Vets: International Aid for Animals.”
The room was part of the World Vets Surgical Training Center, a house-turned-veterinary-clinic located in Granada, Nicaragua. World Vets, a non-profit organization that provides veterinary aid in developing countries, opened the clinic to harbor its new International Veterinary Medicine Program, which will train hundreds of veterinarians and students from across the globe.
World Vets was founded by WSU graduate Dr. Cathy King (DVM ’97), who started the organization with a donation jar at her clinic in Deer Park, Wash. in 2006. Today, more than 3,500 people have volunteered for World Vets in 36 countries around the world.
“We started out with nothing — just the vision that veterinarians from all over the U.S. could help on projects,” King said. “It just grew from there and three years later became a full-time job for me. Now we send out a team almost every week of the year.”
Andrea Castillo/The Daily Evergreen
Last week, a group of 11 volunteers traveled to the Granada clinic as part of a World Vets field project, providing free spay/neuter services and other medical treatments for dogs and cats. The team completed about 105 basic consultations and 75 surgeries in four days of work.
WSU graduate Dr. Karen Allum (DVM ’94) led the volunteer group as a field service veterinarian. Allum said she was impressed with how quickly the volunteers gelled together to become a real team, making the week go by smoothly.
King said the Surgical Training Center is run by Nicaraguan veterinarians taught by World Vets during the last five years. For eight months of the year, the center will provide training for Latin American students. But between May and August, the program will serve as hands-on immersion into international veterinary medicine for American, Canadian and European students.
“In all the time we’ve been out here doing this work, we’ve had a lot of local vet students interested in learning who weren’t getting a lot of surgical instruction in school,” she said. “We decided that in order to maximize our impact we would put a focus on training.”
Allum said the new facility is great for veterinary students still learning to do surgery. World Vets teams do not usually get to work on real operating tables and in real clinics during field projects, she said.
“We’ve done surgery in a fire station, a Catholic church, an abandoned sweatshop and on basketball courts — often times without water or electricity,” she said. “The way this clinic is set up pretty closely mimics what the senior surgery students will operate from in their vet schools.”
One of the dogs treated by World Vets volunteers last week was Lassi, a German Shepherd with a five-pound tumor.
Lassi’s owner, Ana Goussen, brought her into the clinic after being advised by multiple Nicaraguan veterinarians to have her euthanized. Having owned the dog for seven years, Goussen said she was unwilling to give up hope so quickly.
Two days before she was brought into the World Vets clinic, Lassi’s tumor ruptured. The open wound was easily infectable and within a few more days, Lassi would have died.
Surgeons removed Lassi’s tumor in an operation that took about an hour. By the following morning, Lassi was able to stand up and walk around the clinic, tumor-free and healing well.
“Nicaragua is a very poor country, so many people don’t have the money to treat dogs like Lassi because the operations are too expensive,” Goussen said. “Thanks to God and to World Vets, I still have my pretty dog. Now I am happy.”
King said one of her long-term visions for World Vets is to open training centers in different regions of the world. Once the Granada program is fine-tuned and running smoothly, King said she would like to open up similar centers and programs in Africa and parts of Asia.
To learn more about World Vets visit worldvets.org.