Making a Difference with CVM

Making a Difference with CVM

Before coming to vet school, I worked at a clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina for two years and was fortunate enough to get to know some amazing veterinarians.  It is through this outlet that I became involved in Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) through North Carolina State University Veterinary School, then continued to stay involved once I became a student here at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

What started out with a four-day trip to the Cherokee nation in North Carolina, has now become two trips to Cherokee, three trips to the Navajo nation in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, and one trip to Alaskan villages.  With each trip that I do through CVM, I gain different invaluable experiences and meet more incredible people both from the areas we visit and other vet schools around the country.


CVM in the Navajo nation

Every day is different during a trip to the Navajo nation.  We drive to four different locations on the reservation and stay in each town for about two to four days.  Each day we divide into three groups for the small animal clinic, and two ambulatory vans to do flocks of sheep, cattle, goats, horses, and other animals.  The line for the small animal clinic goes out the door of the church basement we are working in with people bringing sheep dogs, house dogs, sheep and goats in the back of pick-up trucks, and the occasional cats in pillow cases.


CVM5We spend the day doing surgeries on fold out tables, giving annual vaccines, and spending time with the people.  It’s truly amazing to see kids run into the clinic year after year, ready to put on their mask and surgery cap so that they can hold the light and watch another one of their dogs get spayed.

The large animal teams head out early in the morning and see just about anything that the families present them with at their homes.  This usually consists of annual vaccines and castrations on horses, flocks of sheep, goats, dogs, cats, and occasionally some cattle.


CVM in Alaska


CVMThe Alaskan experience was completely different than anything I could have imagined.  As a bit of background, the remote villages along the coast of Alaska are very secluded from the major cities, and while you can travel by four-wheeler between villages in the winter, when the ground is not frozen you must fly from village to village.  Since four wheelers and snow mobiles have replaced dog teams as a major form of transportation over the years, the number of stray dogs has become a serious problem.  Due to a lack of education about dog behavior and the importance of vaccination, rabies and dog bites are a problem in these villages.  That’s where we come in.  In addition to setting up a small animal clinic for vaccinations, spays, and neuters in the villages, we also load up our backpacks full of rabies vaccines and walk from door to door throughout the village asking to vaccinate animals and promoting awareness about animal health.

CVM3While the adults in the village are extremely receptive to learning from us and take the time to teach us about their culture, it is the children that are the most excited and curious about what we do.  They are the ones who grab handfuls of salmon and march outside in a teeshirt when its 20 degrees outside to help us catch their dog for a vaccination, or scream out answers in the classroom during our dog bite prevention talks in the schools.  They are also the ones who will walk into our make-shift clinic after school with their dog on a string, ready for surgery and a vaccine after learning from us in the classroom that afternoon.  Those are the most rewarding times because when you ask a classroom full of 7-year-olds who has been bitten by a dog, and a roomful of hands fly into the air, you just hope that the next year less hands will be up.


CVM at home

Getting involved with CVM has allowed me to gain invaluable veterinary experience, but more importantly, it has given me the opportunity to learn about different cultures and get to know some amazing veterinarians, vet students, and many other people from around the country.


In addition to being a resource to network with people around the country, Tufts CVM has given me an opportunity to have a small, tight knit community within our small Cummings School community that helped me through all the most stressful times in vet school.  Weekly meetings and monthly dinners with students, faculty, and local veterinarians have given me a family of people here in Grafton that I have had since first year and will continue to rely on throughout my veterinary career.