My trip to Nicaragua was filled with amazing opportunities to grow as a professional, as well as a person. I was exposed to a culture and way of life very different than my own and was working in an environment that has many technological challenges. The clinic was not for profit and was forced to practice without the luxury of machines such as an ECG, radiology, and IDEXX machines. The veterinarians in the area were adept at making diagnoses based on clinical signs and history alone and nearly always their treatments were successful. I had the opportunity to perform numerous elective procedures on stray canines and felines. While in Nicaragua I performed spays, complicated spays, spays on pyometras, neuters, hernia repairs, and participated in an amputation of a forelimb. In addition I saw numerous consults for the local population and was required to evaluate patients, create treatment plans, and perform any and all procedures. I was amazed at how much I had learned in the past three years of my life and with the aid of the veterinarian I was able to utilize that knowledge to heal and help the animals in the area. I was finally helping in a way I have been studying for and the fulfillment I felt made all my hard work worthwhile.
I was fortunate enough to work with horses and it was interesting to see how differently horses are treated in Nicaragua. They are used as workhorses and their health is pertinent to the income of the families that own them. They suffer from problems such as saddle sores because they are commonly overloaded by wood, hay, and other life necessities. Laminitis is very uncommon and the horses are generally never overweight. I was also fascinated to see bites from vampire bats. I saw diseases I never expected to see as a veterinarian as I never planned to practice any medicine outside of the United States.
In addition to working in the area, living in the area was fascinating. Stray animals were abundant in the city and many of the strays I sterilized found me again while I was at a restaurant or walking down the street. Small business stands, singers, and children playing in the street created a rich cultural environment. Most people do not drive but rather walk where they need to go. Internet was intermittent and not having a cellular telephone allowed me to appreciate the lifestyle and culture of the area. I was enriched as a person and the growth I experienced far outweighs the fears I had associated with travel overseas. I would say to any student considering studying overseas to jump at the opportunity for my life will be forever changed by the things I did in Nicaragua.
—Leo Congenie, Class of 2014