About the project…
This summer, three veterinary students from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have traveled to Nepal to work with livestock and Community Animal Health Workers.
The idea for the project began last year, when Alison Barnstable and Laurel Redding, two second-year Penn Vet students at the time, were awarded the Penn Vet Inspiration Award, a $100,000 grant from the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation, to initiate a collaboration between the vet school and the non-profit organization, Heifer International (www.heifer.org).
Heifer International began as an aid organization in the 1940s, where farmers from the US provided heifers (young cows) to communities in need. Since that time, the organization has greatly expanded and is now active in 53 countries and 28 US states with projects focusing on community development and the donation of animals to help families achieve self-reliance.
During their stay in Nepal, Penn Vet students will be joining Heifer’s movement as they work in Nepal with Animal Health Training and Consultancy Services (AHTCS, www.ahtcs.org.np) to research and to teach farmers about basic animal health and husbandry needs.
Alison (Barnstable) and I approached Heifer International, an organization we both admired and had previous experience with, to see what kind of opportunities could be available for veterinary students. After having been awarded the grant, we traveled to the Heifer headquarters in Little Rock, AK. Members of the Heifer staff thought our students could be involved with a project in Nepal – a country where Heifer has been particularly successful. The idea was to help promote the development of a network of certified Village Animal Health Workers which could, in turn, act as the eyes and ears at the grassroots level from a public health perspective.
Our project will have two components:
1. Participating in a training session for Village Animal Health Workers – self-identified members of a community who wish to obtain training in basic animal health and husbandry and who can subsequently market their services to the rest of the community.
2. A research project to characterize animal production systems in Nepal, with particular attention to nutrition, with the goal of describing the life-cycles, uses and health of livestock in rural areas of Nepal.
We will be working with communities in Pokhara, Nepal, many of which are also Heifer communities. We will have a Nepalese veterinarian assist us with our research while we are there and after we return. We hope this project will provide valuable experience to vet students, exemplify ways in which veterinarians can become involved in global public health and improving animal productivity, and perhaps enable us to make useful recommendations to farming communities in the area with regards to animal productivity.
About the students…
Laurel Redding is a third-year VMD/PhD student. She was born and raised in France, obtained a bachelors in religion from Duke University, and will be starting her PhD in epidemiology this summer. She has worked in small animal, equine and wildlife conservation medicine and is interested in public health and food animal production medicine.
Yoon Chay is from Seoul, South Korea. Having earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Yale University in 2006, Yoon has worked with small animal and military veterinarians before, and interested in public health and mixed animal practice. Other work experience includes South Korean military (2002-2004) and financial consulting (2006-2008).
Lauren Aldinger is a rising third year at Penn Vet. She completed a BS in 2008 at Penn State in animal biosciences. Her past international experiences include studying agriculture research and extension in France and Belgium through a Sustainable Crop Protection in Agriculture Program (SUSPROT) course and studying the Chinese dairy industry through a Penn-led faculty initiative. Lauren is very excited to continue incorporating her passion for veterinary medicine with her interests in sustainable agriculture through this latest endeavor in Nepal with Heifer International and AHTCS.