Unexpected Kindness

October 26, 2015
by Kara Miller, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2017

HSVMA-RAVS teams are filled with unique and inspiring people, sacrificing time with friends and family to work long hours in difficult conditions. Greatness often comes from adversity and both are seen at a RAVS clinic. But inspiration sometimes catches you by surprise. In the July HSVMA newsletter, Rayeann Solano, a student from Midwestern University was inspired by Erin, a young girl from the community. It turns out little Erin had a big impact on our team working with the San Carlos Apache community!

"Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Kindness that catches us by surprise brings out the best in our natures." - Bob Kerrey, former Governor of Nebraska and US Senator

HSVMA-RAVS volunteers Cyndi Davidson (l) and Kara Miller (r) with inspiring San Carlos Apache tribe member and future veterinarian, Erin
HSVMA-RAVS volunteers Cyndi Davidson (l) and Kara Miller (r) pose with a young member of the San Carlos Apache tribe who wants to be a veterinarian.  Kara Miller

The first week of June, a group of around 50 veterinary students, veterinary professionals, and support volunteers joined together to do the unthinkable. This team, comprised mostly of strangers with varied backgrounds, came together and efficiently completed a daunting-yet-incredible task known as a Rural Area Veterinary Services Field Clinic. HSVMA-RAVS provides free veterinary services to underserved rural communities among the Native Nations, where access to veterinary care is limited for many reasons, including poverty and distance. RAVS is a unique experience that combines hands-on veterinary teaching while providing a high level of community service. The impact of RAVS extends beyond the care given to our patients. Each animal we help on these trips contributes to the overall health of the community. By improving basic veterinary care such as vaccinations and parasite control, the potential risk of contracting a zoonotic disease is significantly lessened, directly impacting the overall wellness in the community. This year marked my third RAVS trip and, hopefully, not my last.

Every clinic has its stories; this one is very special to me because of an unexpected relationship I developed with a young girl on the reservation named Erin. Although she is only 10 years old, Erin is one of the most eager to learn, intelligent, kind, and optimistic kids I have met. It is easy to get bogged down with the stress and workload of veterinary school; the interest Erin showed for veterinary medicine at such a young age reminded me of the same passion that I have had for this vocation since I was a little girl. Working with her during this RAVS clinic reminded me of my younger self, and helped reignite the flame of passion that has fueled me on my path to becoming a veterinarian.

No matter the task, Erin was more than willing to help, whether it was wrapping surgical packs or cleaning the large dog crates. I was very impressed that Erin chooses to attend school in the summer, demonstrating the high value she places on education. While mentoring Erin at the clinic, I taught her about things like sterility in the surgery field, something that I didn’t fully understand until vet school. After teaching her how to gown and glove for surgery, she asked if she could watch the spay of her own dog CoCo, who recently had a litter. At the end of the trip, I received a heartwarming handmade card and bracelet from Erin. Her thoughtfulness extended to making handmade cards for many others on the RAVS team. RAVS presented her with a gift pack containing various vet related items such as vet wrap, gloves, a mask, a scrub shirt, a book on training dogs and much more. I have continued to keep in touch with Erin and hope she will look to me for mentoring in the future.

Erin keeps a watchful eye over her dog, Coco, as she recovers from surgery
Erin kept a watchful eye over her dog, Coco, while she recovered from spay surgery.  Kara Miller

RAVS is a wonderful place to practice essential, everyday veterinary techniques such as record taking, completing physicals, giving vaccinations, and medical decision-making in a low-pressure environment. Through these trips, I have gained an immense amount of surgical confidence, enhanced my ability to communicate to clients, and made lifelong bonds with exceptional and inspiring people. Because I chose to volunteer with RAVS, I made an impact on the overall wellness of members in the community by directly improving the health of their individual animals, informing and demonstrating proper animal husbandry, and made a lasting relationship with a young, future veterinarian. The experiences I gained enriched my veterinary medical knowledge, strengthened my decision making ability in less than perfect situations, blessed me with many new friendships, and humbled me seeing just how much the community members care about their pets. My hope is that I have encouraged you to do something kind for someone today, not because you expect kindness back, but to make the world a better place.