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Simple and Effective – Julie Sparks

October 2, 2017

Once we packed up our clinic, we encountered yet another northern challenge – fog. We were grounded, and had to make several trips to the small airport before the weather cleared and our plane could depart. Despite the numerous visits to the airport, I didn’t notice really this sign until our last visit there.

The tiny, hand-written, Bristol-board sign immediately made me smile and giggle. It was so different from the kinds of signs that mark our flashy southern airports. “I have to take a picture of this,” I thought to myself, already anticipating the humour it would generate among my friends back home. It wasn’t until I was reflecting on our trip weeks later, though, that it occurred to me that this sign actually meant more to me than a good laugh. This sign might be basic and simple, but it was still serving its purpose.

This sign reminds me that things don’t have to be expensive and extravagant to serve a purpose. This sign reminds me of the Chinook Project itself and of how much we accomplished in a rudimentary clinic so different from the ones I was used to in my training. Though the Chinook Project and other outreach projects are often limited to the most basic medical equipment, we can still perform important veterinary services like physical examinations, vaccinations, de-worming, spays, and castrations. Though our clinic is simple and basic, our work is still extremely meaningful.

It is easy to become distracted by the allure of new technologies like CT scans, digital x-ray machines, MRIs, and fancy anesthetic monitoring equipment. And it’s easy to convince ourselves that these things are essential in order for us to practice good medicine. The reality, however, is that good medicine and meaningful work can still be achieved without all of these things. We tend to forget that our knowledge and the most basic of our technical skills are the most important tools we have. By simply examining, vaccinating, deworming, and neutering dogs, our tiny clinic — that fit into 10 boxes — helped to control overpopulation, the spread of potentially fatal and zoonotic diseases, lighten parasite burdens and, perhaps most importantly, to build a relationship of trust and understanding with the communities of the North.

Was our work basic and simple? Yes. Did it still serve a purpose? Absolutely.

Julie Sparks, AVC 2018, traveled to Igloolik in 2017 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Julie’s pieces.

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