Returning to the International Training Center, Ooty, Tamil Nadu, Southern India
The International Training Centre (ITC) in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, Southern India was set up in 2010 by The Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) .The Clinical Director is Ilona Otter ,a Finnish veterinarian .She is supported by her husband Nigel Otter an Indian animal and environmental activist. The centre provides practical surgical and anaesthesic training for vets from all over India through animal birth control. It promotes best practice techniques in animal welfare. It not only teaches Indian vets the skill of neutering, but has a positive effect on the community by controlling the stray dog population.
I first visited the ITC in 2011 as an overseas volunteer, straight after graduating from The University of Glasgow Veterinary School. To this day this experience remains one of the highlights of my career and one which changed and shaped my whole path. I went to the centre with very few surgical skills (only those learnt at vet school and through work experience placements) and was taught gold standard surgical skills and anaesthetic monitoring in a supportive teaching environment. Also the importance of animal birth control in disease prevention.
I enjoyed my experience so much that I stayed on to volunteer at the International Protection for Animals and Nature (IPAN), a small mixed veterinary practice in the Nilgiris district. Here I learned to remove plastic litter from cow’s stomachs, treat dogs with large snake bite wounds and continuing with animal birth control.
All the vets and animal care assistants were so passionate and committed and taught me so much that I was determined I would return one day and share my skills
In January 2018, after completing a Masters in Veterinary Cardiology, I returned to the ITC with the aim of sharing my skills to the new generations of vets.
Since 2011, the achievements of the training centre have been inspiring. Through running mass rabies vaccinations programmes, education programmes and spay and neuter projects they have eradicated rabies in Ooty. This is an amazing achievement as rabies still kills 59,000 people globally every year most of whom are children under the age of 5 years.
The ITC is now known as a centre of excellence in teaching veterinary surgery and animal welfare, well-known across India among the veterinary community. There had been lots of building development since my last visit with the surgical theatre and kennels, the addition of an x-ray machine and an ultrasound machine. There is now a daily clinic providing free veterinary care for those who cannot afford it.
I was able to share some of my cardiology skills with the Indian vets who work permanently at the centre and teach a basic introduction to echocardiography and abdominal ultrasound. Their enthusiasm to learn was inspiring. In addition, I helped out in the clinics including demonstrating how to treat a cat with a urethral obstruction ,a condition not seen commonly in India,
Whilst I was at the centre, 12 international students from Australia ,coming to the end of their degree, were there as volunteers . It was incredible to watch and help them change from veterinary students with little surgical confidence, to competent and confident surgeons.
By returning to the ITC again I re-connected with my reasons for choosing to be a vet and was reminded that teaching a skill to others, no matter how small, e.g placing an IV catheter, a sterile approach to abdominal surgery, performing a routine procedure, diagnosing a common condition, can have an influence that may affect others for years, even generations and I left knowing that the skills I had shared will be passed onto others and make a contribution to this vital work.
If you are a vet, vet nurse or a non-vet who is interested in volunteering on one of the WVS trips you can check out their website here:
The ITC is a centre run by donations, so if you wish to donate to this fantastic cause please follow the link below:
I am currently planning my next volunteering trip. If you would like to sponsor my trip please follow the link below: