A New World, a New Culture, and New Opportunities to Learn

July 21, 2015
by Rayeann Solano

The Midwestern University RAVS crew, clockwise from the left: Rayeann Solano, Anna Ward, Dr. Mike Jaffe, and Hilary Lazarus in the front with the pup.  HSVMA
Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz. welcomed the inaugural class of their College of Veterinary Medicine last fall. HSVMA-RAVS staff veterinarian, Dr. Ahne Simonsen, traveled to Glendale to introduce the students and faculty to HSVMA and the RAVS program, and received an enthusiastic welcome from Dr. Mike Jaffe and the Midwestern students. Located near many native nations in great need of veterinary services, the new college is an opportunity to form collaborative relationships with humane groups working on native lands. RAVS has recently extended its efforts to improve animal and public health with the San Carlos Apache Tribe under the leadership of staff veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Shriver. Dr. Shriver and the HSVMA-RAVS staff are looking forward to working with Midwestern faculty and students as our San Carlos program expands.

Everyone leaves a RAVS clinic with a story, this one is from a new Midwestern student who joined us in San Carlos...

Growing up on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation on the western border of Arizona and being a member of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma, it has always been a goal of mine to give back to communities in need, particularly reservations. After being accepted to Midwestern University, my desire to serve local communities in Arizona grew stronger. With the help of my advisor, Dr. Mike Jaffe, I was able to join him and two classmates on the 2015 San Carlos, Ariz. RAVS surgery clinic. Excited by the opportunity, I had no clue that the week I would spend on this reservation would be one of exhausting hours, an abundance of hands-on clinical experience, and an overwhelming amount of eye-opening moments. Throughout the week, there were moments that made the long hours worth every minute—like Erin, a little girl we met during the clinic. Erin is around 8 or 9 years old, and her dream is to be a veterinarian someday. She became our little helper, and as I saw her in an oversized surgery gown so excited to watch her dog’s spay surgery and helping us recover patients, I realized we were making a bigger difference in the lives of this community than I could have imagined. At the end of the week she told us that this week was the best week of her life.

Rayeann performed her first neuter surgery on the trip.  HSVMA

In just five days, we were able to treat hundreds of pets at no cost to the community members, and vaccinate for diseases endemic in this community such as distemper, parvo, and test for others like ehrlichia. The part I enjoyed most was getting to meet the people. As a vet student I have a passion for animals, but I also have a passion for people and educating them about their pet’s health. In this community, education is particularly important with the rise of the zoonotic disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever that has taken the lives of children and elders. Midwestern University takes the “One Health” initiative very seriously, and at San Carlos I saw first-hand how educating the community about veterinary care can also save the lives of people. This trip opened my eyes to a new world, a new culture, and new opportunities to learn.

I improved my skills in physical exam and anesthesia, and was also able to perform my first canine neuter surgery under the guidance of an experienced, supportive veterinarian. Of course my future career will be filled with numerous spay and neuter surgeries, but I’ll always remember where I performed my first...in a high school gym on the San Carlos reservation, on a dog that may not have had the chance of being neutered without our clinic.

I left San Carlos a better person, humbled by the experience and by the gratitude of this community. Most importantly, I learned from the San Carlos community that as a future veterinarian, I will not only be saving animals, I’ll be saving people. Whether it’s by educating a community at risk for zoonotic disease exposure or by inspiring young ones like Erin to follow their dreams – especially if their dream is to be a veterinarian – we can all make a difference as veterinary professionals.

Thank you to the San Carlos community for an amazing experience, and thank you to RAVS for a great opportunity!


Rayeann Solano
Choctaw of Oklahoma
Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2018

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