Cuba and Canada have a growing friendship and nowhere is that more evident than the historical visit to Havana by three Ontario Veterinarians. November 29th to December 6th 2010 marked the first Cuban Canadian Veterinary Cooperation Week. With special Cooperation Visas in hand Drs. Michele Travers, Linda Pallett and Michael Belovich along with organizer Terry Shewcuk of the Spanky Project (spankyproject.blogspot.com) flew to Havana from Pearson Airport on Air Cubana, stumbling into the Plaza Hotel at 4 am Sunday November 29th after having becoming rather too well acquainted with customs officials at the José Martín International Airport!
A whirlwind week began at 5 short hours later with their delivery of over $7000 in veterinary supplies to the Cuban agency sanctioning the visit; The Society for Heritage, Community and the Environment Sociedad Patrimonio, Comunidad y Medio Ambiente (SPCMA) at their offices in Old Havana. The donated supplies were destined for several projects organized by the Spanky Project, as well as to assist local veterinarians. Using materials supplied entirely by the Spanky Project, Drs.Travers, Pallett and Belovich worked alongside their Cuban counterparts and two local translators at two spay/neuter clinics for street animals. The first, in the municipality of San Miguel de Pedron, was at the Consultorio Veterinario of Dra. Danis Rivero, which also happened to be her home. The second was in La Habana Vieja,.at the clinic of Dra. Fernando Gispert, the Clinica Veterinaria Laika.
Wednesday December 1st , 2010 marked the First Annual Cuba Canada Veterinarians Day Conference, the first time that Canadian Veterinarians have been invited to speak to the Cuban Veterinary Association, the Consejo Cientifico Veterinario de Cuba. Today’s Cuban Veterinarians are the first generation to get even basic instruction in small animal medicine or surgery, so with an audience of over 100 veterinarians, Drs. Belovich and Pallett started with a demonstration on handling techniques for cats and dogs. Dr Belovich followed with a talk summarizing the AAHA/AAFP Pain Protocols for Cats. Dr. Travers spoke on Choke in horses and then gave a presentation showing interesting radiographs in lame horses.
The week in Cuba included participation in several Spanky Project programs. At Finca Vigia -Museo Hemingway a tour and lunch were combined with vaccinating the 13 resident dogs This marked the culmination of a 6 month project to deworm, sterilize and improve their nutrition. At the botanical garden of Quinta de los Molinos, the local dogs were dewormed and plans were set for future collaborations. Tours were provided during the week of several local clinics, including the main referral clinic in Havana, Clinica Carlos Tercero enabling a better understanding of the challenges facing Cuban Veterinarians. Near the end of the week a visit was arranged to the, horse carriage annex, Habanquanex, where the Cochero's gather to hitch their horses before heading throughout the city in search of tourists. Dr Michele Travers worked alongside Dr. Gispert and Professor Carlos Yrurzan Estrda from the Havana Veterinary School performing equine lameness evaluations, dewormings, and basic dentistry.
In Cuba, the Veterinarians must do great medicine while foregoing much of the equipment and medications we take for granted. It is a dream of the Professors at the Veterinary School in Havana to have a gas anaesthetic machine for the small and large animal clinics. This is one of the fundraising efforts now in place through the Spanky Project before the Canadian Veterinary Contingent returns to Cuba for the Second Annual Cuban Canadian Cooperation Week at the End of November 2011.
Please feel free to email Dr. Michael Belovich at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on helping the Spanky Project in Cuba and fundraising efforts.