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consult clinicThe last time I saw it, Kathmandu was literally still shaking from the aftershocks of a devastating 7.9 earthquake that left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless and without shelter. Immediately after the quake, which happened during brunch with my friends Dr. Pranav and Rajani Joshi, I’d spent four sleepless days and nights in the U.S. Embassy kitchen, feeding hundreds of sheltering American families. Meanwhile, Pranav tirelessly dug people and animals alike out of the wreckage in the small town of Bhaktapur, where his vet clinic is located. Just days later, my USAID-husband and I were flown back to the USA without the chance to say a proper good-bye to people and places we had loved during our four years of service in Nepal.

Last month, on the second anniversary of this tragic event, I finally had the chance to return. Pranav and I consult by Facebook Messenger nearly every day, but nothing beats being there in person! During our years in Kathmandu, I helped Pranav build his clinic from a tiny room in his family home to a respectable veterinary center. The week prior to the earthquake, we had gutted the space for a major remodeling that had to be postponed until the aftershocks stopped and the building inspected for safety. The clinic is always my happy space, so being in the newly renovated space for the first time was a mixed emotional moment of both happiness, and sorrow for the team members who lost family members but continued on, serving the health of people and their pets.

Mentoring 2017During my all-too-brief stay, Pranav and I had the chance to work side-by-side again. Over the last two years, the vet student teaching project we started with a single post-grad looking for mentorship has grown into a group of eight young vet school graduates, who rotate through the clinic, seeing out-patients and having hands-on training that the Nepal vet school is unable to provide.

One standout is Dr. Ekata Pandey – who has taken to surgery like a duck to water, and is now doing routine procedures confidently on her own. Dr. Pandey is now the first new full-time veterinarian entrusted to join the Vet-For-Your-Pet clinic staff, freeing up Dr. Joshi to prepare a formal proposal for an accredited small animal internship program; work on his research into the infectious disease interface between domestic and wild animals and the surrounding human communities; and creating Nepal’s first high quality animal boarding center … all this while still running the Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society, which provides free rabies vaccinations, neutering, and sick-animal care to the street dogs of the Kathmandu Valley. There are also plans to expand the clinic by opening satellite centers in Phora Durbar, in old Pattan, and in the tourist town of Pokara, which is the starting point for many of the trekking routes into the Himalayas.

Group photo KTM 2017I’m happiest simply caring for animals, I feel strongly that those of us who have succeeded in life are obliged to “give back” generously, by providing the mentorship and support that, if we were lucky, we received along the way. I’m so grateful to be able to continue to work with this tremendous team of caring human beings, and lucky that Växt supports my ongoing international efforts by enduring my time away from my other great team in Madison! Thanks, guys – and Namaste!

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