Sydney University veterinary student Ivan Duong has always had a strong interest in helping underserved animals and their communities and yearns to begin his career in shelter medicine.
Naturally, when the option of volunteering for Vets Beyond Borders in Cambodia came up this year as part of his final year university placement programme, he immediately jumped at the opportunity!
Ivan volunteered for three weeks at the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS) clinic, whose staff has been extremely welcoming and an absolute pleasure to work alongside and to learn from them, he said.
“I was very appreciative of the tight knit culture exhibited by the local vets at PPAWS. They have lunch every day at the clinic in a circle! It was a great team to work with!” said Ivan.
In addition to gaining valuable hands-on experience assisting vets with desexing procedures, consultations and treatments of hospitalised patients, Ivan also gained a better understanding of the common health issues that Cambodian vets and the animals face.
“Lack of access to veterinary drugs is a common issue for veterinarians here, sometimes leading to compromises in care. A lot of preventative vaccines are unfortunately missing due to lack of access, which was unfortunate but a good opportunity as some diseases are rarely seen in Australia. Lack of funds also limit a lot of diagnostic tests in Cambodia,” he explained.
Ivan really enjoyed the outreach program that brought the PPAWS team to the rural parts of Cambodia in order to provide veterinary care to animals that otherwise might not ever have received it.
“We set up makeshift consultation tables and surgery tables outdoors and performed free preventative rabies vaccinations and desexing operations. We also did house visits and offered free rabies vaccination to every household,” he said.
Ivan loved the experience because “I felt like I was truly making a palpable difference in these animals’ welfare and that was extremely rewarding,” he said.
“I 100% recommend volunteering with VBB and stepping out of your comfort zone. Learning about the plight of animals in developing countries and issues that vets face with lack of funds, access to medication and learning how to adapt was a great experience.”