HSVMA-RAVS From a Pre-Veterinary Student Perspective

June 16, 2014
by Shane Rose

Dr. Paul Breckenridge

My HSVMA-RAVS adventure started in late 2012 as I filled out an application for the March 2013 trip to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. As someone who has a tough time doing things outside of his comfort zone, I started feeling a bit intimidated after I was accepted. I heard great things about the RAVS experience, but as the reality of flying from the stale cold of Wisconsin to the dry heat of the Arizona high desert mountains and a culture very foreign to me began to sink in, my comfort zone was seriously challenged. Arriving in San Carlos, I quickly learned that March in the mountains of Arizona can be as cold as the people are warm. Now, a year and a half later with not one, but two RAVS trips to San Carlos under my belt, I can say it was one of the best decisions I have made, and my comfort zone is considerably stretched.

Being a pre-vet student, I definitely had my doubts of how much I could contribute to the three-day wellness clinic, but those doubts were soon erased. I cannot say enough about how helpful and encouraging the veterinary students and veterinary professionals were. On the first day of taking in my new surroundings, I quickly shifted my focus from worrying, to remembering why I decided to take this trip.

Once the clinic started and I began to meet our clients, I could see how much the people cared for their animals. I was not used to seeing so many dogs malnourished, with many having parvovirus, skin conditions, and even a dog with TVT (transmissible venereal tumor). But the lack of care was not from a lack of caring, it was from a lack of resources and the long distance to the nearest veterinary clinic. HSVMA-RAVS has been working with the local animal control team to improve animal care between the annual RAVS trips. From my first trip in 2013 to my latest in 2014, there was a noticeable increase in the knowledge of proper animal husbandry by the community members that, I believe, is attributable to the efforts of the local animal control team. This showed me that what we were doing truly makes a difference in the lives of our clients and their animal family members.

Volunteers examine a canine patient at the HSVMA-RAVS clinic on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona.
Dr. Paul Breckenridge

When I left for my first trip I hoped to learn more about veterinary medicine—both as a science and as a career—and I was not disappointed, but I did not expect to learn so much about myself or to make connections with veterinary students and professionals from all across our country. I will continue to be involved with RAVS during the rest of my undergraduate studies and hopefully throughout veterinary school. No amount of classroom time or reading can replace these experiences. Though I found myself physically and mentally exhausted after long days of sweating, writing, and assisting with patient exams, I was emotionally satisfied. That feeling of satisfaction from providing necessary services to a community with great need solidified my choice of a veterinary career. I hope that many others have the chance to go on a RAVS trip at least once in their life. But I can almost guarantee that you will not stop at only one trip. I look forward to experiencing new places, meeting new people, helping more animals, and increasing my medical knowledge on future RAVS clinics. Until next time, I will be here in Wisconsin hoping for warmer weather and dreaming of that next RAVS trip.

Shane Rose is a pre-veterinary student at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisc. HSVMA-RAVS accepts several undergraduate students on each team as clinic support volunteers. The exposure to real-world veterinary outreach often inspires them and provides renewed motivation to focus on their goal of veterinary school admission. These students are a critical part of the HSVMA-RAVS team, providing an extra set of willing and able hands to help keep the clinic running smoothly.

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