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Chaos to Impact

July 26, 2023

Anne Johnsen, AVC 2024, traveled to Sheshatshiu in 2023 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.

Being a part of the Chinook Project was very impactful for me and it is an experience I will value for my entire career as a veterinarian. Throughout our week-long visit in Sheshatshiu, Labrador the team was able to see almost 150 dogs and give the invaluable service of spaying/neutering to over 40 of those patients. These numbers are so important to me because of what it means for the community.

When we arrived in Sheshatshiu, after being delayed 24 hours due to an airline issue, we set up our clinic to hit the ground running the next day, and boy were we running! I will never forget that first clinic day when we all got a complete shock to our systems! What we thought was going to be a slower day as it was a Sunday, turned into utter chaos. All eight of us were running around trying to remember where things were in the clinic, what dewormer protocols were the best option in each case, as well as sharpening up on our surgery skills that some of us hadn’t practiced in a few months. I remember feeling overwhelmed but so excited at the response we were getting from the community. After seeing 50 patients on that tough but rewarding first day, we finally closed up the clinic around 11pm. Exhausted, we made our way to the cottage where we were staying to rest and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

The second and third days of our clinic were MUCH less busy and were almost too slow. I remember thinking I missed the hustle and bustle, and sometimes was a little disappointed with the turn out because we were only there for a short amount of time. We still were able to fill out our days with surgery and see patients for vaccine appointments. As the week went on, we became steadier with our surgery and check-up appointments and the last day turned into the busy clinic that we remembered from day one. Rounding out the 5th and final day of the clinic, we had approximately 18 surgeries and a steady flow of appointments. That last day was so special because it was such a full circle moment, with the beginning… and then end of the trip being so busy. Throughout that last crazy day, we all were incredibly organized as a group. You could see that in just 5 days, we quickly fell into a rhythm that worked.

Reflecting back on the volume of patients we saw, I feel proud we were able to meet the demand from the community and I am thankful for the slower days- as we were able to tweak the workflow of the clinic to be more efficient when it got busy again. Thinking about everything we accomplished, especially spaying and neutering all those animals is exhilarating. Over Forty fewer adults in the community with zero potential to have an unwanted pregnancy resulting in puppies for is a massive impact. In addition to the population control, vaccinating over 100 patients and taking the time to have great conversations to educate the community members about pet care will aid in the ripple affect we hope to have in Sheshatshiu. Even though we were only there for a week, we hope our hard work is going to make a long-lasting impact on the community in a way that is hard to quantify.

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