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CVM Students in Ghana, Africa

Posted July 01, 2003

CVM Students in Ghana, Africa

Journeying into the heart of West Africa, a team of second-year veterinary students from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University are helping to launch the Ghana Animal Welfare Society (GHAWS) this summer in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

For six weeks, four students will assist local veterinarians in setting up guidelines and standards that will ensure proper animal care. They will educate the people of Ghana in developing a more compassionate attitude toward animals and understanding the important human health issues related to zoonotic diseases.

GHAWS began in January 2003 after Angela Williams, the principle investigator for the project, spent three months in Ghana last summer working with head veterinarian, Maj. Dr. Joseph Selorm Tettey gaining valuable international experience and veterinary knowledge.

While sharing her experience with others, Williams recruited her co-investigators, Molly Jowell, Alexis Willingham and Krista Hardy. Together this group will educate members of the Ghana community by distributing materials that will serve to promote pertinent animal welfare topics.

"GHAWS is needed to end the cycle of animal abuse, neglect and inadequate care in Ghana," Williams said. "As future veterinarians, it is our obligation to address animal care issues and to begin educating the public."

Ghana, located in West Africa, is primarily rural with more than half of the 18.5 million inhabitants involved in agriculture. The city of Accra is highly developed, yet lacks appropriate animal care and control. Although the dominant language is English many tribal dialects are spoken causing a significant barrier that GHAWS must overcome.

"Developing effective ways to interact with the people of Ghana will be the initial challenge for our team to overcome when we arrive," Willingham said. "They will be unaware of what we are doing but, hopefully once the word gets out in the city and contacts are made with teachers and other veterinarians we will be able to break the communication barrier."

In addition to educating the people of Ghana the team will also lead the construction of an animal holding pen at the veterinary hospital in Ghana and distribute donated veterinary supplies to clinics in Accra. It is often very difficult for veterinarians in Ghana to acquire basic supplies because of high cost and low availability. GHAWS plans to collect veterinary supplies donated by local veterinarians and distribute them to the clinics in Accra.

"Awareness of the issues facing Ghana is one of our major goals," Jowell said. "In our studies we tend to focus on problems pertinent to our country and as students we must realize that there are veterinarians out there that need our help."

" Many professional veterinarians support the goals of GHAWS but are unable to dedicate the time necessary to help set up the organization," Williams commented. "It's amazing that a group of students can go over there and make such a huge impact in such a short time."

Assisting with the launch of the Ghana program, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation awarded the team a Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine fellowship in the amount of $6,500 because of the project's potential to advance the humane treatment of animals. Through their faculty mentor, Dr. Jeffrey MB Musser, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, the project is receiving financial support from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extensions Service Challenge Grant, Global Veterinary Medicine and Foreign Animal Diseases: Trade, Control, Careers.

The students are hopeful that the program will continue in the future and that anyone interested in going abroad will have the opportunity to go to Ghana.

"We are trying to build a framework for future work in Ghana," Hardy said. "Our efforts this summer with GHAWS will not end when we leave, but will continue to help the society, the people, and animals of Ghana."

Contact Information:
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718

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