After dropping off my luggage at my apartment my Mongolian guide took me to the small animal clinic where I was immediately put to work. Within an hour I was assisting a young Mongolian veterinarian with surgery for a foreign body blockage using multiple enterotomies to retrieve a cloth bag that a dog had eaten two days before. It was a great start!
I loved my time in Mongolia that first year and every October for the past 2 years I have returned to Ulaanbaatar.
This past October my job description was a little bit different from my first two years. This year I was asked to teach 20 hours of small animal medicine in the Masters Program, I also taught two surgery classes at the Mongolian veterinary college and worked at the Enerekh Caring small animal hospital and training center.
Mongolia is a country bordered by Russia on the north and China on the south. It became a communist country, aligning itself with the Soviet Union after breaking away from China in 1921. In 1992 it became a parliamentary republic with the introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the U.S.S.R.
Over 1 million people live in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The remaining 1.7 million people are herder families who live a semi-nomadic existence in the countryside as they move their sheep, goats, cattle and horses over large areas of unfenced hill country. When an area becomes overgrazed the herders move their gers, a round tent house made of layers of felt and canvas, and move to a new area.
V.E.T Net employs about 80 Mongolians who work as teachers. veterinarians, animal health technologists and administrators. There are also 8 full time expatriates who act as advisors and receive all their financial support from donors outside Mongolia.
Throughout the year about 65 “shuttle” veterinarians from North America, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain travel to Mongolia to work with V.E.T Net. They are committed to the continuing education of Mongolian companion, food animal and equine veterinarians. In addition to teaching veterinary medicine, shuttle veterinarians are called upon to lead Bible studies and devotions for the V.E.T. Net team in Ulaanbaatar or in the countryside.
During the summer months teams of teachers, veterinarians and animal health technologists travel from the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, into the countryside. They are involved with the education and personal development of herder children and their families as well as continuing education with large animal veterinarians. The summer teams work in 21 aimags (provinces) in an area approximately the size of Alberta and British Columbia combined. It takes 5 travel days to reach the most western province. Although planting churches is not specifically V.E.T. Net’s mandate, many house churches result from V.E.T Net’s three year involvement in a countryside community.
The Enerekh Caring small animal clinic and training center in Ulaanbaatar is a fully equipped veterinary hospital operated by Mongolian veterinarians. Dr. Karen Smirmaul, from the USA, is an advisor for the clinic. It’s a busy practice with several thousand charts.
The Enerekh Caring small animal clinic is well equipped with an X-ray unit, a laboratory and a surgical suite with gas anesthesia. It is the only small animal clinic in Ulaanbaatar with this kind of equipment. All surgical procedures are done under sterile conditions with surgical caps, masks and gowns. As a service to the other clinics in Ulaanbaatar the V.E.T. Net small animal clinic periodically offers Saturday training days in surgery, anesthesia and sterile technique.
Every week 60 or more veterinary students gather together at the V.E.T. Net office for supper followed by a Bible study. Some of these students from previous years have become Christians and are now on staff at the veterinary clinic or work with V.E.T. Net in the countryside. Many students from the veterinary school also attend the biweekly teaching sessions held at the Enerekh veterinary small animal clinic on various aspects of small animal practice. During my time at the clinic last year I taught a session on reading and interpreting radiographs.
Shuttle veterinarians are often invited to give lectures in companion and food animal medicine and surgery at the Mongolian University Veterinary School. Last year I taught two “lectures” in companion internal medicine: one case in dermatology and another in endocrinology and introduced the students to the problem orientated case based learning model. They worked together in small groups to formulate a diagnostic plan. This year I helped the students work through two surgical cases using power point presentations and videos.
In August a Canadian colleague Dr. Dana Caswell, from Ontario, travelled to Mongolia with V.E.T. Net. She spent most of her time in the countryside. The countryside is a never ending landscape of rolling hills and sparsely covered grasslands populated with herders who slowly move horses, sheep, goats, and cattle to new grazing areas. There are few fences in Mongolia.
"We drove to the far west side of the country to a province called Uvs. Our team consisted of Toodoo our driver, Tsoomoo a large animal vet, Inkbayar a small animal vet, Melissa a veterinary tech and long term missionary and myself. Our goal was to visit with the countryside veterinarians and meet with some of their herders to do training and also to follow up with the herders who were finishing the model herder program. The herders were all very happy with the programs, and reported increased cashmere, and healthier animals because of the drugs V.E.T. Net provided. We also saw and treated some sick animals with the countryside vets as we went.
Visiting with the herder families in their gers was some of the most interesting and rewarding time spent on the trip. Travelling the Mongolian countryside is truly an adventure, and an eye opening experience in terms of cultural differences, living conditions and generally a good exercise in learning to trust in God and to be flexible! The country is beautiful and I will treasure the many pictures I took. I hope the time the team spent together with the countryside herders and vets will have strengthened relationships and allow for further opportunities to share the gospel in the future."
My October visit to Mongolia with V.E.T. Net was my best time so far. I became friends with the other team members and felt I belonged in this work. I loved Ulaanbaatar and plan to return in October 2012.
I decided to go to Mongolia as a volunteer with Christian Veterinary Mission to share the experience I have developed over many years of practicing veterinary medicine in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Mongolia is great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is willing to share Christ’s love through veterinary medicine.