Student Blogs

Greece 2022

Students with animals

Michael Greener

“My trip to Greece was fantastic! I loved it so much. What many people may think was a major disadvantage, I saw as an advantage. We didn’t have all the supplies and materials we would have at school or a standard clinic in the US. We didn’t have the shiny surgical tables or the best lighting. This trip helped me learn that sometimes you won’t have everything you need in shelter medicine. You have to be creative and make different decisions that might not be in your comfort zone. This is how I gained confidence in my medicine and my surgical skills. Because if I can do surgery in this environment, I can do it anywhere. Of course, all of the dogs that we did surgery on were safe and well taken care of, but it was a good experience to be thrown outside your comfort zone and forced to think outside the box. This is why shelter medicine is amazing- the doctors do anything and everything they can to help all animals. This trip would not have been a success if we didn’t have Dr. Agapis and her three little cheerleaders. She’s an amazing mom, doctor, and mentor, and I’m so glad I was able to go to Greece and fulfill the dream I had since my first year when I first met Dr. Agapis, to go on this Greece trip and learn shelter medicine from the best.”

Kira Scarangella

“I really enjoyed this trip very much. This was my second time leaving the country and I love adventures. I really loved learning the culture and trying all of the authentic foods. I enjoyed my time with Dr. Agapis and Dr. Souza. I felt like I was well cared for and safe. I really enjoyed visiting the animal shelter in Rhodes Island. This was an eye opening experience to reflect what we have here in the US vs there. The scenery was beautiful and I enjoyed being able to travel around other parts of Greece and explore.

The trip helped me professionally in regard to spays and neuters experience. However, I wish I would have had more surgeries. I was only able to perform 1 neuter and 3 spays. My suggestion would be to have another doctor/mentor present along with a couple of technicians. I would find myself spending my time doing a lot of the technician work and not enough doctor work. Dr. Agapis was a great teacher along with Dr. Val. In terms of doing things differently – wish there was more staff at the vet clinic to help with surgeries and treatment shifts. I wish we were told ahead of time we would be taking care of the dogs while they stayed overnight in the clinic (we did treatment shifts in the AM and PM and would spend 1-2 hrs doing that everyday because cages were dirty and needed to feed animals).

Advice to others: I would really try and paint a clear picture for people interested in this program of what to expect. Not staying in 5 star hotels. Need to be flexible in regards to plans. If you have a strict diet… do not come on this trip as there may not be an option for you. Have fun and enjoy your time there. Take everything in as it comes and don’t get too worried if plans change. Also – this is a trip that is amazing and exhausting. You will have really long days and be tired. I really enjoyed my time. It was so great to spend several days in the area and learn the culture. Overall, I had a wonderful time and do recommend this program in the future.”

Selfie with Rhodes Dr. Agapis and vet students

Sarah Balwierczak

“In May 2022, I traveled to Greece with a group of newly graduated veterinary students on a shelter medicine volunteer trip! We first arrived in Athens and spent the week sightseeing and learning about the culture of Greece in the cities of Athens, Santorini, and Kos. It was such an amazing week! We then went to the island of Rhodes to get started in shelter medicine. In Rhodes, we primarily worked with the municipal shelter. We were able to tour the premises and observe the dogs to note which animals we thought were a higher priority to examine in addition to the ones the shelter staff already wanted us to look at. We performed physical exams, gave vaccines, and administered microchips and medications. We took some dogs back to the clinic to take care of for the week, including a momma dog and her pups! We also transported dogs to and from the clinic for spay/neuter surgeries, which we performed. We all had to play the roles of kennel attendant, veterinary technician, and veterinarian, from cleaning kennels to sedating and preparing animals for surgery to performing surgery and cleaning up and getting things ready for the next animal. It was rewarding to help in all aspects of animal care. Still, a lot more time than expected was spent with animal husbandry/cleaning and transport that I wish could’ve been spent focusing on performing more surgeries to gain additional experience. Still, we made do with what resources we had and made it work the best we could. 

The last week was spent on the island of Crete, and we helped some of the animals at Takis Shelter. We did treat some sick patients, but we mostly focused on preventative health and spay/neuter surgeries. Due to maintenance issues, we worked out of a local veterinary clinic instead of on the shelter property as originally planned. This made the week a little more challenging to squeeze into a clinic that was still open to the public, but we got creative and learned as we went along. We learned a new appreciation for good light sources and large surgical drapes. We’d process each animal daily by performing basic blood work (primarily “the big 4”), infectious disease testing, microchipping, vaccines, spay/neuter surgeries, and dental cleanings. Personally, I think it would have been easier if we each could have performed multiple surgeries in a row to get a good rhythm going instead of going back and forth between animal prep/monitoring and surgeon. Still, we were also trying to ensure each person got an equal amount of surgical experience.

I had so much fun in Greece and would go back in a heartbeat! I wish we could have performed more surgeries during our time there. Still, I love shelter medicine and appreciate all aspects of the field, so I loved being able not only to perform a few surgeries, but also see the shelters, discuss what works well and what could be improved and why, gain additional experience examining patients for wellness as well as illness, practicing clinical skills like venipuncture and administering injections, and being able to perform a few dental cleanings as well. Since I was a new grad who just graduated a few days before we left for Greece, I was a little nervous about the trip and felt like I needed to gain skill and confidence in everything from exams to injections to surgery. We didn’t have a technician to aid with weighing/premeding/preparing/monitoring patients for the surgeries we did have, so on surgery days, it did feel a bit overwhelming to me, trying to go in and out of being the surgeon and keep a flow going. I personally felt I would feel more comfortable and more efficient if I were able to focus each day on one primary role, like performing back-to-back surgeries one day to gain momentum and confidence by repeating similar surgeries and learning new techniques from the other vets and then on the other days focusing on the many other tasks necessary to keep the day flowing like weighing patients, calculating their medication doses, administering the medications, monitoring during/after surgery, and record keeping. I learned a lot while on this trip and am glad I was able to help the homeless animal population in Greece.”

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