by Tania Senter     This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work with a study abroad program called Loop Abroad to organize a group of Cal Poly students and attend a veterinary service trip in Thailand. I had previously traveled to Thailand on a veterinary service trip in high school and it was the most incredible experience, so I wanted to give myself and other students the opportunity to gain more unique hands on animal experience.

While in Thailand I spent one week at Elephant Nature Park, an elephant sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates elephants from the trekking and logging industries in Thailand. In addition to learning about elephant behavior and anatomy, our group worked with elephant veterinarians at the sanctuary to provide care for the elephants. I got to prepare medications, clean wounds, drain abscesses, and go on veterinary rounds. Some of the elephants have injuries from stepping on landmines while working in the logging industry, so we helped treat their wounded feet. I also performed a diet study on an older elephant, which entailed tracking her daily food and water intake as well performing a urinalysis and other lab work to ensure she is getting adequate nutrients. When I wasn’t caring for the elephants, I got to join the other volunteers to help clean up around the park, prepare food in the elephant kitchen, and care for some of the other animals at the large sanctuary.

I spent the second week of the program working at an animal clinic in Chiang Mai. While there I gave physical exams, performed blood draws, placed IV catheters, and performed and monitored anesthesia. I also got the opportunity to scrub in and assist the local veterinarian on a canine spray and feline neuter!

While we weren’t working with animals we got to experience some highlights of Chiang Mai and Thai culture. We visited Doi Suthep temple and got to speak with a monk who led us through meditation, attended multiple night markets, and went ziplining through the forest!

The process of planning this trip was definitely challenging and put me in a position of great responsibility, but being able to share my love for veterinary medicine and provide so many students with this opportunity has been the most rewarding experience of my life.