Veterinarians share knowledge, supplies with Haiti

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Apr 01, 2011

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti — Service trips to India and Mongolia helped Dr. Lee Ann Berglund-Fosdick find her calling in life—traveling and helping others. And after six or seven trips to Haiti, Berglund-Fosdick has never been happier.

"I've found what I love," she says in February after returning from her latest trip.


Helping hands: Berglund-Fosdick teaches basic animal care to Haiti's farmers. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Lee Ann Berglund-Fosdick)
Destroyed by an earthquake in January 2010, Haiti is still struggling to recover. But even before the earthquake, Berglund-Fosdick began helping Dr. Ken Schumann, a retired small-animal veterinarian from Wisconsin, to train vet agents in Haiti to better care for the animals.

"Lee Ann is a great instructor," Schumann says, "and she is a lot of fun to have around."

Schumann discovered Haiti's need for veterinarians after his Rotary group adopted a city there 20 years ago. He shifted his focus to veterinary issues about eight years ago.

"The idea came from a vet agent friend, Volmar, in Haiti," Schumann explained.

Through the program, approximately 20 to 35 vet agents spend a week in the classroom and a week in the field.

"The vet techs had some training, but lacked equipment," Schumann says. "We initially took them stethoscopes, penlights, and thermometers."

The veterinarians from the United States volunteering in Schumann's group, like Berglund-Fosdick, taught the vet agents how to use the stethoscopes and what normal ranges were.

"Better livestock means better food for Haitians," Schumann says. "It also means some more income for vet agents. Once they had their certificate, farmers would recognize this and hire the agents to take care of their livestock."

On her most recent trip in February—an easy two-hour flight from Florida—Berglund-Fosdick spent almost three weeks working with nursing students and vet agents.

"We had the best students this trip," she says, adding her group took syringes, needles, dewormers, and surgery kits to donate to the Haitian vet agents.

Berglund-Fosdick has seen a change in animal care since the group began visiting Haiti, and spoke of a student she has taught three years in a row.

"This time I watched him sedate a cow, give an epidural and replace a prolapsed uterus," she says. "It made me cry. I definitely see a difference in the animals between my first pictures and now."

Berglund-Fosdick adds that a big part of her job is teaching the agents not to just treat the animals, but also to educate the farmers to prevent future problems.