For St. George’s University veterinary student Regan Schwartz, becoming a veterinarian has been a life-long dream that is finally coming to fruition. With the help of SGUSVM, Hills Pet Food and the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA), Ms. Schwartz was able to fund a six-week trip to Nepal for the purpose of gaining valuable clinical experience.
“Originally I wanted to go to Nepal to engage in hands-on clinical work with a variety of organizations primarily focusing on zoonotic diseases,” said the first-term vet student. “Then the earthquake happened and all of my plans went up in the air.”
In spite of the devastation caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, Ms. Schwartz was even more determined to continue with her trip to Nepal, especially since she had the means to physically bring medical supplies with her. Eager to play a part in restoring hope amidst the destruction, she raised US $2,273 for Nepal through a fundraising page she created in the days before her scheduled departure.
Once on the ground, Ms. Schwartz immersed herself in the Nepalese culture, living for four weeks with local veterinarian Pranav Joshi and his family in Bhaktapur. Under his mentorship, she gained valuable experience working for his non-profit organization Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society (BAWS), whose mission it is to control the dog population by bringing them off the street to be spayed or neutered, as well as vaccinated.
On top of running a shelter for approximately 21 dogs, Dr. Joshi also ran a full-fledged clinic with incoming patients from the community. Ms. Schwartz assisted with numerous amputations, laceration surgeries, and hernia repairs while also cleaning and managing the dogs’ medical treatments.
“I saw everything, I was involved in everything,” she said. “The hands-on experience was extremely valuable. I also felt that my efforts were really appreciated. There is an overwhelming amount of work to be done in Nepal and a desperate need for volunteers.”
During her trip, Ms. Schwartz also worked at the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre (KAT) for two weeks. Founded by Jan Salter, the shelter was home to approximately 50 to 60 dogs and Ms. Schwartz was responsible for injecting the dogs’ everyday treatments and assisting in a number of spay and neuter surgeries.
“I felt like I made a real difference on this trip,” she said. “Returning to Nepal once I am fully qualified to practice will be even more satisfying as I will be able to do so much more.”
Currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and Master in Public Health dual degree program, her research on Veterinarians without Borders first sparked her interest in visiting Nepal. “I am extremely grateful I went on this trip because it showed me what a combined DVM/Master in Public Health will qualify me to do,” stated Ms. Schwartz. “The veterinary medicine, epidemiology, policy making, and the entire curriculum is going to be so beneficial to me that when I go back I will be able to make so much more of a difference.”
While in Nepal, Ms. Schwartz also flew to Chitawan, where she met with Dr. I. P. Dhakal, Dean Faculty of Animal Science, Veterinary Science, and Fisheries at Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU). The two discussed the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between SGU and AFU and the possibility of developing an international exchange program between the two universities. Serving as an ambassador for St. George’s, she hopes that she can inspire other veterinary students to take advantage of these prospective opportunities of the future collaborations of SGU and AFU.
By Ray-Donna Peters