When you hear the word “veterinarian”, there’s a pretty standard picture that jumps into most people’s heads. The woman or man in a white coat, stethoscope around their neck, patting a dog who’s perched on a metal exam table. Maybe, if you work with large animals, the vet is standing outside, in coveralls. But the idea is the same- vets go to work and serve the medical needs of clients and their pets. And that is a wonderful thing. It is what most of us do.
But the amazing thing about our profession, about people who choose to go into veterinary medicine, is this desire to take in the bigger picture and ask ourselves, what more can we be doing? What needs are out there that we can help fulfill?
Vets are, if you didn’t know, really good at that too. I knew a good percentage of the field indulged an altruistic streak here and there, but I didn’t know just how big it was until I started looking. Those vets tend to be pretty modest about advertising the work they are doing- a flaw, in my view. So I’m going to talk about some of them today.
The Heska Corporation is a provider of veterinary supplies; if you work in the field you’re probably familiar with some of their products. As a way to give back to the community they launched the Inspiration in Action contest to help veterinarians with a really cool idea to get it off the ground, because as I can tell you firsthand, we are a group with amazing ideas but we seem to fall flat when it comes to fundraising. In the first year of the competition, World Vets came in second place, winning seed money that helped the organization become what it is today.
This year, I was invited to attend the awards ceremony honoring this year’s winners as a World Vets representative. What a great way to start the day, by being reminded of the many good deeds out there and my field’s commitment to stepping up and volunteering in the world to make it a better place.
The $25,000 top award was accepted by Jan Bellows, DVM, DAVDC, DABVP. As you can tell by the number of titles after his name, Dr. Bellows is incredibly accomplished. As a world expert in veterinary dentistry, no one would blame him for just trying to stay on top of his game and fulfilling the many expectations of a field expert.
Yet here he is, volunteering his time to help the mission “to provide life improving advanced veterinary dental care and treatment to exotic animals located in US (and in the future, overseas) captive animal facilities and animal sanctuaries, which are under funded and/or understaffed from a veterinary perspective.” Volunteers travel all over the country to cash-strapped sanctuaries to provide state of the art dental care they never would be able to afford on their own. Dr. Bellows is just one of the many veterinarians and veterinary staff who make this work possible.
I know from my time with Lions, Tigers, and Bears that the vast majority of the animals entering their sanctuary need extensive dental work, fixing problems both painful and debilitating. PEI VDF is helping these forgotten animals live longer and pain free.
Second Place: Kindred Canines in Motion
Service animals make life better for persons with disabilities in more ways we can ever truly comprehend. But who helps these animals live their lives in their best health? Oftentimes the act of taking the service animal to the vet can be a challenging obstacle for the housebound, the elderly, or the disabled. Inspired by a family member’s own experience, Dr. Joyce Gerardi has created a mobile veterinary clinic to address this vital need. The $10,000 second place prize will help her accomplish this mission.
Third Place: Navajo Nation Veterinary Shuttle
With the $5,000 award money, the Christian Veterinary Mission’s Navajo Nation Veterinary Shuttle will provide veterinary services to the underserved (or should we say unserved) areas of the Navajo Nation. For the last 10 years, teams of veterinarians and students have travelled to what volunteer Dr. Page Waters describes as “a different world.” In one of the most inspiring moments of the award ceremony, Dr. Waters showed a picture of a young Navajo woman who has been observing the mission trips since she was a child, and is now a veterinary student at Tufts.
Told you my profession was cool. Thank you to my colleagues for remembering what it’s all about and to Heska, for helping ensure these projects continue.