Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
January 14, 1999
Global vets pioneers in Guelph, India
Enid Stiles and Michelle Cutler are pioneers, both in Guelph and in India.
"But without working outside of Canada or the U.S., there is no way to gain different experience or training."
So Stiles and Cutler dreamt up the idea of Global Vets, a student-based program at OVC that gives students the opportunity to study veterinary medicine overseas. The women found a faculty advisor, went door-to-door searching for sponsors, and made plans to meet with veterinarians in India. "We decided we didn't have anything to lose," Cutler says.
Cutler and Stiles spent nine and a half weeks last year in India, travelling by foot, bus and train. Armed with only enough clothing and supplies to fit in a back pack, they toured veterinary clinics, animal shelters and institutes, private practices and farms.
"We were there to observe and learn. We wanted to see what veterinary medicine was like in India, learn their way of doing things," says Stiles, now a third-year OVC student. Cutler, also a third-year OVC students, adds "We wanted to incorporate ourselves into the culture. Everyone was really amazing."
The two returned to Guelph with international knowledge and education, as well as a new respect for their chosen field. "India is an amazing country for veterinary medicine, they have vast numbers of animals, there are 280 million cattle alone," Stiles says. "They have special relationship and affection for their animals, especially cattle."
Their journey took them to places like Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi and Hissar. Travel was difficult and slow, and temperatures and humidity extreme. "It was especially hard on us because of the heat," Stiles says. "It was exhausting," Cutler adds. "Travelling in India takes a ridiculous amount of time. It takes about three times as long as it should to go anywhere." The two recalled sitting on buses and trains that would stop for hours on end. "I kept thinking ‘if only my parents could see me now," Stiles says with a laugh.
During their journey, Stiles and Cutler had to put up with some good-natured jabs about their marital status. "Everyone wanted to know why we weren't married," Cutler says with a laugh. "Being a woman made it an interesting experience," Stiles adds. "People could believe we were two women, travelling alone through India with our stuff in backpacks."
What they found in India was a thriving dairy industry and people taking in pets, mostly dogs, for the first time. They also learned that veterinarians in India have less technology to work with, but more collaboration, such as thriving co-op programs, dairy farms and systems of caring for animals. "It is more grassroots," Cutler says.
Their trip was sponsored by IAMS, Merial, Bayer, Pet Plan Insurance, Johnston & Peters, Toronto Dominion Bank, CIBC, Pond's Foto Source, and the University of Guelph's Centre for International Programs. Upon their return, Stiles and Cutler held a slide show and information session for the sponsors and other veterinary students.
Their success means that Global Vets is here to stay. Each year, at least two students between their second and third years at OVC will be chosen as Global Vets by a committee made up mostly of fellow students. The students must present a plan for international travel, including which country/countries they hope to visit, and make their own arrangements to visit schools, shelters and clinics. This year, OVC students Jennifer Kays and Beverley Bateman were selected. They will travel through Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania for nine weeks.
Stiles and Cutler take pride in knowing their pioneering efforts have made it possible for others to gain international experience and training. "It was harder for us to get this started, because we didn't have anything to show people, there were no success stories," Cutler says. "We've shown students can do it and that there are sponsors interested in helping students gain this type of experience."
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