Pinnacle of Change

By Susan Monger, DVM

December 6, 2011

How better to address change than to have a former student graduate from veterinary school, continue to work with you for a few more years to further enhance her education and professional experience, and then see her appointed Dean of her veterinary college? That’s exactly what has happened with the HSVMA-RAVS program at the University of El Salvador College of Veterinary Medicine, as a result of the passion of three Salvadoran female veterinarians to enhance the education and experience of students in their own university despite economic hardships.

In May of 2004, HSVMA-RAVS was invited to The University of El Salvador College of Veterinary Medicine by Dr. Claudia Molina to demonstrate the fundamental approach to surgery. At that time, Dr. Molina had just graduated and worked with HSVMA-RAVS doing sterilization campaigns in a remote area of El Salvador. Despite the fact we were working in very basic field conditions, Dr. Molina recognized she lacked the proper skills to address surgery. She invited us to the university in 2005 to give surgical demonstrations, marking the beginning of HSVMA-RAVS providing enhanced education in economically and resource challenged veterinary colleges.

Drs. Vargas and Pinchinte
Drs. Maria Jose Vargas and Claudia Pichinte
Susan Monger, DVM/HSVMA

During our first visit to the university in 2005, Dr. Maria Jose Vargas was a student in her last year of veterinary college. The surgery room was crowded with faculty and students and I distinctly remember her standing front and center to see as much as possible.

In the following few years, both Drs. Molina and Vargas and Dr. Francis Alvarenga continued to correspond with HSVMA-RAVS, and in 2008 we returned to conduct our first full anesthesia and surgical course in the veterinary college in San Salvador. All three women worked tirelessly and at great sacrifice, addressing all the details necessary to undertake such a large and important endeavor. Dr. Vargas—now a professor in the university—oversaw the course details. Their dedication to providing enhanced education in the veterinary college was overwhelmingly popular among the students as well as graduate veterinarians wanting to improve their surgical skills. Dr. Vargas tirelessly applied herself to becoming a better veterinarian as well as cultivating a program within her university that would address a sustainable approach to teaching the fundamentals of anesthesia and surgery.

Drs. Vargas, Monger and Melendez-Calderon
Drs. Maria Jose Vargas, Susan Monger and Oscar Luis Meléndez Calderón.

At the end of October 2011, the current Dean, Dr. Oscar Luis Meléndez Calderón, was retiring from the position. Dr. Meléndez supported the HSVMA-RAVS program from the beginning and was instrumental in our annual return to the college. Dr. Vargas was one of four people under consideration for the position. I returned to El Salvador for a short week of work in October, prior the Board’s decision. It was with great pleasure I learned of her appointment to the position upon my return to the US. There certainly is no question in my mind that Dr. Vargas can lead the College and develop curriculum that will enhance the education of the student body.

Education in economically and resource challenged areas of the world remains a difficult undertaking no matter the circumstance. Dr. Vargas has an enormous job ahead of her. But there is no question she will rise to the occasion and the students, veterinarians and most importantly, the animals will all benefit. HSVMA-RAVS will continue to support her in her new and arguably, huge undertaking.

Susan Monger, DVM is the HSVMA-RAVS International Director.