“Gaining skills and making a positive contribution to the world” - From an Australian Vet School to WVS ITC Ooty

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“Gaining skills and making a positive contribution to the world” - From an Australian Vet School to WVS ITC Ooty

Tue 12th Mar 2019

Madeleine recently joined us at our ITC in Ooty India, swapping vet student life at Charles Sturt University for the Tamil Nadu hills! Find out why she recommends a WVS surgical course in her awesome blog below...

Vet students spend a lot of time studying and staring at screens, so after several years learning theory it’s quite exciting for us to start putting our knowledge into practice. Part of my exciting journey into my clinical years included a trip to the International Training Centre (ITC) run by Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) in Ooty, India. After spending two weeks participating in an animal birth control (ABC) clinic here and having a fantastic time, I hope that I can convince you to get involved with this amazing charity too! 

The WVS Ooty project is located within the beautiful Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu. While the drive from Bangalore to Ooty was long, it was also a wonderful way to spend our first day. We travelled through colourful cities, passed through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and National Park where we saw an assortment of Indian wildlife, and gazed upon expanses of tea plantations as we made our way up into the mountains. 

Upon arrival we were shown to our shared rooms and introduced to our shower buckets (which I found to be an amusing novelty). Soon after this, dinner blew my little Australian mind with an introduction to the many traditional Indian meals that I would enjoy over the following weeks. 

On our first Monday we were inducted into the program and clinic. We received several lectures which taught us about the important role that free-roaming street dogs play in many communities across India. We also learned of the issues with rabies across India, and how WVS is working to vaccinate dogs and reduce human rabies deaths. 

The following day we were eased into our first day of surgery, only having to operate on one patient each. I was particularly grateful for this as it allowed us to find our feet before preparing for the madness of the coming days. Our supervising vets were patient and kind, guiding us where we needed while allowing us to practise our skills. As most of us participating in the clinic had only completed one or two sterilisation surgeries before attending the clinic, their support was most appreciated. 

 As our second day of surgery began we now felt more confident within the space and we worked together as a team to ensure everything flowed smoothly. Each of us performed two surgeries yet we somehow managed to finish earlier than day one so we were definitely improving with each day! 

It’s important at this point that I show my appreciation to the assistants who helped our surgery days flow so smoothly. If any of the vet students were struggling to place a catheter, one of the boys was ready to go and had everything complete within seconds. They also did an amazing job of handling the dogs to prevent any bite incidents while sedating animals or assessing wound scores. I will miss hearing the frequent shouting of “Navas!” across the operating room during surgeries. If we were ever short of propofol or needed another pair of gloves as we had somehow broken asepsis for the fourth time, Navas the assistant was there to help. 

Around our surgeries we had several evening lectures where we revised wound healing, anaesthesia and analgesia techniques, and discussed the importance of antibiotic stewardship. This theory contributed to our understanding of procedures we undertook during our surgeries and gave us the knowledge to make the best decisions for our surgical patients.

We were privileged to spend part of our weekend working with Mission Rabies to vaccinate free-roaming street dogs and pets with rabies vaccine. This program contributes to both human and animal health within the region, reducing the risk of dog bites leading to human deaths from rabies. We travelled through several remote villages just inside the border of Karnataka, catching dogs while being followed by a large group of curious children. The day was a success with over 300 animals vaccinated!! This is even more impressive considering that there was very little communication between us and the villagers as our supervising vets didn’t speak the local language!

Across week two our confidence grew. While some of us faced challenges such as difficult anaesthesias or dropped ovarian pedicles, the team at WVS were incredibly supportive. From needing step-by-step guidance during week one, we could now operate independently. I am so proud to say that I can confidently castrate a dog unassisted, and I’m feeling much more comfortable with my spay surgeries too. 

I cannot recommend completing one of the ABC courses with WVS enough! Not only did this course allow me to improve my surgical skills, I also learned how to safely perform and monitor anaesthesias without gas machines and fancy equipment – a skill I believe all veterinarians should have. Additionally, it was great knowing that I helped contribute to the amazing activities completed by WVS that improve both animal and human health and welfare. 

Get involved, gain some skills, and make some great positive contributions to the world while you’re doing it.

P.S. If you need any further convincing, I cuddled soooooooo many puppies during the course!!

If you've been inspired by Madeleine's story, take a look at our available dates for 2019 and 2020 surgical courses and join us for a veterinary adventure!