Student sees new side of veterinary medicine

Published 6:55 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

A college student from Washington made a 9,000-mile trek to Thailand this summer.

Alana Jefferson, 21, a senior at Queens University of Charlotte, is studying to become a veterinarian, and the three-week study abroad trip was a way to broaden her horizons. Jefferson is the daughter of Dr. Marty Poffenberger and Bill Jefferson.

While in Thailand, Jefferson volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park and the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter, both in Chiang Mai, and with New Heaven Marine Conservation on the island of Koh Tao.

Jefferson said Queens University places an emphasis on studying abroad, and she thought Loop Abroad, a pre-veterinary travel program, was the perfect fit.

“I wanted to do a trip that would help me in my career,” she said. “It was just interesting to see the differences in veterinary medicine in the U.S. and veterinary medicine in Thailand, so that was a really good point of the program.”

During the three weeks, she spent time with rescued elephants, assisted with simple surgeries on smaller animals and went scuba diving to determine the biodiversity present on coral reefs.

“Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit,” a press release stated.

One big difference Jefferson noticed on her trip was the aversion to euthanasia in Thailand, which is a common practice in the United States. She said vets in Thailand adhere to Buddhist beliefs, and deciding an animal’s fate is not viewed as an option.

“They didn’t believe that it was morally right to make that decision,” Jefferson explained. “When you go into veterinary medicine, you kind of see it as part of the profession, not necessarily like a question or an ethical dilemma. … They would take care of the animals. They would do everything that they could, but they thought that it wasn’t their decision whether or not, like the animal was going to decide when its life was going to be over.”

Another difference Jefferson noticed was the lower caliber of technology in Thailand — an aspect often taken for granted stateside. Despite the altered ways of treating animals, Jefferson said she learned a lot from her experiences there.

She is applying to various vet schools and hopes to treat smaller animals one day.

“It definitely opened my eyes to a lot of different options,” Jefferson said. “It was just a really cool experience.”