Humans and animals can be affected by the very same diseases and it is essential that medical personnel work together in their fight for wellness regardless of the species they are treating. The theme of “One Medicine – One health” was firmly etched in the minds of the residents of a St. David’s village on Saturday, 10th November, 2007 when for the first time ever, both arms of medicine at the SGU ventured forth together in service to the community.
The event, held in Dierre Morne in St. David’s, a joint effort of student organizations AMSA and SAAVMA, was highly successful with a great turnout from residents. Students and other SGU personnel were also present in large numbers, giving great support and a commendable show of volunteerism. Residents had very few complaints, stating that they only wished that SGU would soon return and that hopefully an even broader cross section of health concerns for both humans and animals could be dealt with next time. The Health Fair/Vet Clinic was the brainchild of Brittany King, a third term SGUSVM student. Oddly, the inspiration came from an irate attendee at one Vet clinic who shared her disapproval of the fact that, at that clinic, pets were being given free health care but there were no arrangements to take care of the health need of their owners.
“I couldn’t blame her for feeling that way and actually agreed with her. I decided the next clinic needed to provide health care for people and their pets at the same time,” said Brittany. She immediately contacted the president of AMSA, Asad Bandealey, who was equally thrilled by the idea. Together they worked indefatigably to make the event the success it turned out to be.
One hundred and forty patients, including 20 senior citizens at a local nursing home, and 5 home-bound patients were seen at the health fair where several tests, including blood pressure screening, blood glucose screening, eye exam, ear exam and breast cancer screening, were conducted. IEA, the SGU academic honor society, was in attendance conducting patient education, and the Pediatrics Club conducted health related activities with children. Women in Medicine (WIM), a group under the AMSA umbrella conducted 50 breast exams, in addition to educating women on when and how to perform their own monthly breast exams. “For some women, this is their first breast exam, which also may indicate absence of regular Pap smear testing,” revealed Stephanie Muriglan, president of WIM. “At these health fairs, WIM has set a goal to bring awareness to Grenadian women about the importance of these clinical measures. Knowledge and control over their reproductive health is an important form of empowerment.”
At the Vet Clinic, over 60 dogs and cats were treated. The students showed their versatility and were not fazed when five or six goats were brought along. Although not necessarily physically large, goats, by definition, are not “small animals” due to a difference in the physical makeup of their digestive system. The goats were treated (in a limited way of course) and the farmer was given advice concerning them, in addition to advice on how to deal with his sty of itchy pigs (not small animals either) who fortunately, were not brought along. The students drew the line after this, denying treatment to a few chickens who wandered in of their own volition.
The small animals at the Vet Clinic were given oral dewormer and mange treatments and were vaccinated with a brand new 3 year Continuum DAP-R vaccine from Intervet which would keep the animals protected from Distemper, Rabies, Adenovirus, and Parvovirus for the next three years. The animals’ owners also went away with Banfield leashes, collars, and bandanas, in addition to a wealth of information concerning the health of their animals. Several pamphlets concerning pet health, including a list of zoonotic diseases (diseases which can affect both humans and animals) were handed out.
The Health Fair/Vet Clinic has already reached even further than is readily observable. In a special Fall promotion, Intervet, the drug company from which the vaccines were ordered, matched the order vaccine for vaccine and sent it along to Africa as well, where 200 pets would receive free health care.
The students coped valiantly with temperamental weather, limited space and long lines. Despite all this, volunteers reaped innumerable benefits from their Health Fair/Vet Clinic experience and had lots of fun despite the hard work. Education was a crucial benefit – many of the students learnt a lot more about the illnesses they diagnosed and treated, about vaccinating, about the persons they met and the Grenadian culture. Stephanie Muriglan comments, “There were three or four really nice ladies from the church that brought us students an endless supply of delicious passion fruit juice and local cakes and sandwiches. If you remember how hot it was and how hard we worked that day, you know the juice was an absolute lifesaver!” She adds, “There is just so much you can take away from one of these fairs, other than how to run a test for sickle cell anemia, it is a memory that will probably last a lifetime.”
Plans are in place to organize similar clinics at least once a semester from henceforth and the students really hope that this trend would become a set tradition for SGU. Brittany states, “I want to give something back to the Grenadians and the island while I’m here. There should be more of a big picture right now to life than just getting through vet school.” Indeed, the spirit of generosity and volunteerism nurtured here at SGU would go on to affect people everywhere. Brittany for one, when she becomes a veterinarian, plans to provide animal care in places where people can’t afford or do not have access to it.
With benefits to humans and animals within and without Grenada, the event can be deemed a huge success.