Student Blogs

Belize 2023

Cynthia Tellez with animal

Cynthia Tellez, a University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine student went to Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic for a 4-week externship in March-April of 2023.

For my professional development experience, I took a big step, hop, and jump away from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to travel to the Belize Wildlife and Referral Center in Cayo, Belize.

I arrived in Belize City, buzzing from excitement to work with a whole new variety of wild animals. The BWRC had a shuttle waiting at the airport to bring me to the intern house, where I would be staying during my time in Belize. I had a chance to meet the team, including my supervisor Dr. I, and was taken to town to gather groceries for my stay. The following day, I got right to work!

At the BWRC, I jumped right into patient care the morning after my arrival. I would soon become an expert in green iguana handling, the first and most common species seen at the clinic.

I was impressed by the variety of species I had the opportunity to work with, including bat falcons, squirrels, kinkajuo, and 7 out of the 8 species of turtles native to Belize. I got ample opportunities to run in-house diagnostics (manual CBCs, fecals, film radiographs, and necropsies). With that, Dr. I challenged me to practice various venipuncture sites that I wasn’t used to but soon became very familiar with.

The BWRC has a “see one, do one, teach one” attitude, which I enjoyed as a hands-on learner. I wanted to take this opportunity to step into the doctor role and manage cases, which the team and Dr. I were very receptive to. I was challenged to come up with treatment plans using the limited diagnostics and medications we had available.

Whether in Champaign, Illinois, or Belize, wildlife clinics cannot hide from orphaned babies that require round-the-clock care. This meant walking home with orphans after a long day to feed them through the night. Despite the hard work on long hot days, limited resources, and overnight babysitting, I became more confident in my ability to manage any new critter that comes through my clinic door.

Find out more about Illinois students’ international experiences.