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Overseas trips help veterinary students
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- There are just some things veterinary students cannot learn even in the best American classrooms.
Dr. Philip Bushby, professor and director of the Office of Educational Innovation at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said senior students are encouraged to pursue educational opportunities overseas, but the cost is often prohibitive. While veterinary students who are not in their senior year do not receive educational credit for such pursuits, a small number of underclass students journey outside the country as well.
Two MSU veterinary students recently gained insights into animal medicine in overseas locations.
Kathryn Wright of Marion, Ark., class of 2003, spent several weeks in Mongolia as an instructor at a veterinary college. Camille Harris of Ridgeland, class of 2004, spent two weeks in South Africa learning from renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr. Cobus Raath.
Wright applied through Christian Veterinary Missions and worked with Vetnet, a veterinary mission project, and with the veterinary school in the capital of Mongolia. She taught English and veterinary terminology to the students and also made a few house calls while in the country.
Wright described the trip as "an eye opener and a faith builder." She plans to pursue a career in a private practice with a personal interest in surgical work.
"I had practice in being flexible and resourceful when treating or examining patients. They didn't have a lot to work with in Mongolia, so we had to do the best we could with what we did have," Wright said. "I think any vet student would benefit from a trip like that. Not only does it test your veterinary abilities, but you must learn to deal with all sorts of people. You work with people from different cultures as well as those of the same culture but with different views."
Harris is a graduate of the Mississippi School for Math and Science in Columbus, and she received her bachelor's degree in animal physiology from Cornell before coming to MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. She said she could write a book about all her experiences with Dr. Raath, the former head veterinarian for the Kruger National Park, the national wildlife preserve in South Africa and now the director of Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in that country.
Harris took part in chemical and mechanical captures of free-ranging wildlife including crocodiles, Cape buffalo and roan antelope. She also learned how to catch a lion, but the group stopped short of an actual capture. She attended lectures, learned radio telemetry and practiced dart gun operation.
Harris, who is president of the MSU exotics club, plans to pursue a career as a zoo veterinarian and work worldwide in wildlife conservation. She intends to take part in MSU's dual degree program. In addition to her DVM, she wants to receive a master's in wildlife conservation medicine.
The Wildlife, Exotic, Zoo, Avian and Aquatic Medicine club is one way students can learn more about nontraditional animals without leaving the country. Harris said the club also helps educate students about nontraditional educational opportunities.
"There are usually a lot of reasons for students not to go overseas -- the cost, separation from family and friends -- but the benefits far outweigh the negatives," Bushby said. "We live in such a global society that traveling outside the United States really improves students' awareness of international issues."
Bushby said students who are not seniors occasionally will travel outside the country during semester breaks to learn more about veterinary issues they are interested in.
"Just because they don't get course credit doesn't make the experience any less valuable," Bushby said.
For more information, contact: Dr. Philip Bushby, (662) 325-3432