Passing on the HSVMA-RAVS Tradition

Drs. Billy Pomper and Paul Badeau
Drs. Billy Pomper (left) and Paul Badeau (right) in front of the HSVMA-RAVS rig on the Lower Brule reservation.  Darci Adams/The HSUS

July 11, 2014
by Darci Adams, HSUS South Dakota State Director, and Ada Norris, HSVMA-RAVS Student Intern

An HSVMA-RAVS clinic is not on any list of idyllic vacations. “Hard Work. Long Hours. Sleep on Floors. Occasional Showers.” is not seen on polished brochures. Yet veterinary professionals and students volunteer, and often return for multiple trips. Consider the RAVS tale of Dr. Billy Pomper and his protégé Dr. Paul Badeau.

Dr. Billy Pomper

Dr. Pomper, a 1968 Cornell graduate, was working at Bolton Veterinary Hospital, a mixed animal practice in Bolton, Conn. nearly 20 years ago when he saw an ad asking for volunteer veterinarians to travel to a Native American reservation in Nevada. An avid hiker and kayaker, Dr. Pomper was always looking for the next adventure, and he found it on that Nevada reservation. He reveled in the challenge of practicing effective medicine without all of the modern tools and, with his range of skills, excelled at teaching veterinary students. Dr. Pomper was made for RAVS—willing to pitch in on any task and staying up as late as necessary for a case or a student needing help. He has traveled to Alaska and all over the continental U.S. on more than a dozen trips over the ensuing years, sharing his exuberance and experience with fortunate students and serving communities in desperate need of veterinary care.

Dr. Paul Badeau

Paul Badeau was a bright-eyed 14-year old interested in veterinary medicine when he decided to volunteer at the Bolton Veterinary Hospital and shadow his family’s veterinarian, Dr. Pomper. Paul worked hard as a kennel volunteer, and was hired as a veterinary assistant in 1997. He continued at Bolton during his undergraduate study at the University of Connecticut, then left for the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. During his association with Bolton, Paul heard many stories of RAVS and the reservations from his role model “Dr. Billy” and in 2005 went on his first RAVS trip. Like his mentor, Paul loved RAVS from the start. Calling the RAVS student experience “the finest and purest you will ever find”, he returned for a second trip. After graduating in 2007, Paul, – now Dr. Badeau – found his way back to Bolton Veterinary Hospital, where he still practices today, and continues to volunteer with RAVS nearly every summer on the high plains of the Dakotas. With Dr. Pomper and Dr. Badeau both being enthusiastic RAVS volunteers, it seems natural that they would volunteer on trips together, but that never happened. Until this year.

The Dream Team

Connecticut HSVMA-RAVS volunteers at Lower Brule
The volunteers from Connecticut pose with Smokey Bear. The HSVMA-RAVS clinic in Lower Brule is in the local firehouse, and the fire company response is geared to range and forest fires—thus the presence of Smokey.  Darci Adams/The HSUS

On June 15, in a cramped firehouse on the Lower Brule Lakota reservation in South Dakota, Drs. Pomper and Badeau helped set up their first RAVS clinic together. Continuing a tradition Dr. Pomper started, they brought two exceptional volunteer veterinary technicians, Corey Pryor and Rachael LePage, establishing “Bolton West” on the banks of the Missouri. A few of the RAVS staff had worked with Dr. Pomper and all had heard his long and storied history through the incarnations that led to today’s HSVMA-RAVS. Most of the staff had also worked with Dr. Badeau, a strong surgeon who was always willing to explain a complicated case, and explain it again if needed by the students. Having mentor and protégé finally together as colleagues was a treat for all. During rare breaks in the surgery schedule, Dr. Pomper would share stories of the “old days,” always surrounded by a group of students. But it was Dr. Badeau, who had been trying to arrange this joint trip for some years, that was most affected by the collaboration. His respect and admiration for his mentor was obvious to all, and in his eyes you could see the 14-year old boy following his dog’s doctor around the clinic that eventually became his professional home.

HSVMA-RAVS is fortunate that many of our volunteers return year after year. They are the best recruiters of new volunteers, and having experienced volunteers guide and assist new ones is critical to a successful clinic. Why do these dedicated volunteers take precious vacation time from an already demanding job to work on harder cases, in more difficult conditions, for far longer hours, where showers are rare, and the brief time for sleep is on a mat in the corner of a gym? Just ask Drs. Pomper and Badeau as they sit together on a well-used wooden RAVS box full of surgical supplies at the end of a 14+ hour clinic day! But you wouldn’t have to ask; just seeing their tired, contented smiles and listening to their comfortable banter says everything.

Ada Norris and Darci Adams with a canine RAVS patient
Martha Stone

Darci Adams (right) works daily to improve the lives of animals as the South Dakota State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. For the past few years, she has volunteered with HSVMA-RAVS on reservations in South Dakota.

Ada Norris (left) is a veterinary student at Cornell University and is in her second year as the HSVMA-RAVS student intern. She enjoys working MASH-style veterinary field clinics, like the ones HSVMA-RAVS sets up on several Native American reservations each year.

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