Nicki Rosenhagen, June 16, 2014, Tanzania

First day on the job! Because of a miscommunication, our first work site was more than an hour away at the Mikumbi village in Mikumi National Park. But despite an early start and a long drive, we were soon set up and ready to go under a tree on the soccer field, eager to get started.

The differences between our Illinois and our Tanzanian surgery suites were pretty astounding. Not only were we missing caps, masks and gowns, we didn’t have a roof, lights, an adjustable table or the convenience of inhalant anesthesia. It certainly took some getting used to.

All of us were a little rusty on our surgical skills, but under the guidance of Dr. Bennett , we completed eight surgeries and vaccinated more than thirty dogs for rabies and distemper virus by the end of the day.

The awareness of the importance of vaccinations with the people in the village was inspiring, and they made a great effort to catch both dogs and cats to be immunized. These animals have very little experience with any form of restraint and do not tolerate it well, so there were some creative methods of restraint used during the injections. Two of the owners walked away with bite injuries, so we’re working on devising handling methods that will be safer for both owner and dog.

In addition to the animal care, we also provided some great entertainment to the younger children in the village. The kids were so interested in the work we were doing, and their attention spans were incredible. They also loved to be photographed and giggled at us stumbling through Swahili in an attempt to communicate. That prompted us to learn some words for next time!

Veterinary students checking on a dog

Checking on a patient

Veterinary student with local children

Nicki with local children

Veterinary students and local children in field in Tanzania

Relaxing in the field with some of the local children

t was a big day physically, mentally and emotionally. The stress associated with practicing medicine in an uncontrolled environment with a language barrier is significant, but it was a great learning opportunity. I often take for granted the luxuries that animal hospitals in the United States provide, and I’m so grateful to have an experience like this to remind me to appreciate what I have. This trip has also already helped me cope with stress and challenged my problem solving skills. It’s just the beginning, but I’m certain by the end, I will be more confident and more competent.  I’m looking forward to a full two weeks of work and learning!