The First Ten Years of This Century

December 7, 2010

by Eric Davis, DVM

Looking back on the miles, the animals, the people, the sweat, the tears, the success, the camaraderie, and the satisfaction of the tenth year that HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) has been in operation this century, I get the same inspiration that always comes from the skill and dedication of our staff, volunteer professionals, and students.

Dr. Davis and student in surgery
Dr. Eric Davis looks over the work of a 4th-year veterinary student on an HSVMA-RAVS clinic.
David Paul Morris

As is happens, I recently had this brought in to particularly sharp focus at the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) meeting here in Baltimore. As I opened the HSVMA booth in the exhibit hall, a veterinarian walked around the corner and said, “Hi Eric, what are you doing these days?”

There was a fleeting moment of non-recognition, followed by the realization that Dr. Carol had not only been a student of mine back in 1995 at the University of Tennessee, but she had been a volunteer on one of the very first veterinary expeditions that I had ever done to the reservations of South Dakota (in December no less!).

Shaping the lives of future veterinarians

After some reminiscence about the old times—vaccinating dogs in Indian housing projects when it was 10 below—she looked at me and said that she learned so much from that experience, that it had ultimately affected the rest of her career. She has been a practicing veterinarian since 1996.

Just then one of our star students from the summer of 2010 walked up to tell me what a wonderful time she had at Pine Ridge, and how it had been a life changing experience for her as well. Not only that, but the veterinary student fraternity at her school had decided to honor HSVMA-RAVS for their contribution to education and the veterinary profession. She had all the enthusiasm of a young person with one more year of school to go before embarking on her career.

It was just one of those moments when what we do and why we do it comes together and snaps into focus. We—the three generations of veterinarians—had a great talk about animals and colleagues, as a few more of our alumni wandered up. Several volunteers were recruited for the upcoming 2011 clinics, and pretty soon our crowd was blocking the aisle between the booths.

To know that we had a hand in shaping the choices and the skills of veterinarians—both now and over 14 years ago—was really touching. I remember those days when the program was first born; it was all pretty unsophisticated, pretty poorly funded, and we had a lot to learn. But we got it right and it worked—animals got care and students learned.

Statistics and trip reports aside, after our first decade in the 21st century, I know this program will keep going and continue making a difference for animals and people. There is no doubt about it. This is longevity.

Dr. Eric Davis developed the HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) program in 1995 and has served as mentor and inspiration to hundreds of young veterinary professionals over the years. He continues his hard work in the field and is currently a consultant for the program.