Meera Kunathasan came to Australia six years ago from Malaysia to study veterinary science at Sydney University. Little did she know she’d be volunteering in Cambodia for Vets Beyond Borders as part of her final year university placement program.
“Growing up, we had heaps of pets at home, such as dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, turtles, tortoise,” she said about her childhood. “Aside from my love for animals, I’ve always wanted a career where I am always learning something new and that emphasizes continuing education. I thoroughly enjoy problem solving and client communication and want to make a difference in both people’s and animals’ lives.”
Meera’s interest in preventative medicine and shelter medicine started early on when she volunteered at various vet clinics and animal shelters in Malaysia.
“I noticed that Malaysians are very passionate about their pets; however, we’re often limited to accessibility to veterinarians or due to financial constraints. Hence, it was always more feasible to prevent a disease than waiting to treat it. I have also found a special interest in surgery which grew throughout my final year of rotations,” she said.
In Cambodia, Meera volunteered at the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS) clinic. She described her experience there as “amazing” thanks to the PPAWS team who were extremely welcoming since the day she arrived there.
“I really enjoyed working with such a tight knit group where everyone’s opinion on a case was well-valued. Additionally, having lunch together every day and the occasional drink after work was a great way to grow closer to the team,” Meera said.
For three weeks Meera assisted the vets with desexing surgeries, treatments of the hospitalised patients and performing consultations. Her most memorable experience was treating stray cats and dogs in different pagodas.
“Every Thursday, the team would make a trip to a pagoda to administer flea prevention and deworm the local stray animals. If there were animals that were injured or critically ill, they would be treated in the clinic,” she said. “It was amazing to see how the monks and vets worked together to ensure the health of the stray animals are prioritized.”
The PPAWS team also visited a local school to educate children on animal welfare and the responsibilities of pet ownership.
Meera aimed to better understand the common animal health issues seen in Cambodia which aren’t common in Australia, such as tick fever and rabies. The PPAWS team saw many cases day after day and the local vets were great at working together to determine a treatment plan, explained Meera.
“Despite the lack equipment, the PPAWs team were extremely creative with making do to ensure appropriate treatment is received by the patients. For example, the local vets invented a drain by cutting holes in an IV line to insert into a dog fight wound,” she said.
Meera recommended volunteering for VBB in Cambodia to any veterinary student, saying, “It’s a great way to push your limits and discover a different veterinary culture in Cambodia!”
After graduation, Meera hopes to practice in Australia for at least a couple years and then work in the UK for a little while.
Wherever opportunities take you Meera, we thank you and wish you good luck and hope we’ll see you again at another volunteer program in the future.