Mission Rabies Goa – Chapter 1: Mission Accepted!

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When I retired last year, I thought my life could be divided into my “professional identity” and my “civilian identity”, and I was happy to leave my professional identity – and all of the stresses that arose from that – behind, and just live happily with my civilian identity. But being a veterinarian is not like being a toll collector on the turnpike. The job doesn’t end when you leave the office. You’re a veterinarian whether you’re working or not, practicing or not.  For the first few months of retirement, I was able to submerge the veterinarian part of me and just relax, read, and travel. But as the months wore on, it became even more apparent that my “professional” and “civilian” identities were inextricably intertwined. Without some type of active engagement of my veterinary side, I just didn’t feel like myself. I needed to resurrect the veterinarian inside, without re-igniting the stresses that come from working in a veterinary practice.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to do this.

On July 13th, I received an email from Brief Media.  They are the publishers of Clinician’s Brief, a veterinary journal.

Indu Mani

I’ve subscribed to this journal for years, mainly because it’s a very practical journal for practitioners,  I also liked that the editor in chief is Indu Mani.

When I was doing my internal medicine residency at Colorado State University back in the ‘90’s, Indu was a senior student. She was smart and fun back then, and I liked seeing her little portrait on the masthead of the journal.

I’m on Brief Media’s mailing list, and I regularly get e-mails  that give me a preview of the articles in the upcoming issue of the journal.  I give these e-mails a cursory glance, at most; I just wait for the journal to arrive. This e-mail, however, was different.

Rather than the signature red and white graphics of the Clinician’s Brief journal, this e-mail had a photo of people in yellow shirts trekking through an exotic locale,

Copyright New York Times

with a headline that said “Mission Rabies Helps More Than Just Animals”.

Copyright New York Times

In a smaller font below that, it continued with, “Join the Volunteer Teams Working to Eliminate Rabies Across the Globe”. Intrigued, I read further. The text of the e-mail said:

“Brief Media, publisher of Clinician’s Brief, is once again partnering with Mission Rabies to send a team of veterinary professionals to a rabies hotspot to help eliminate rabies and save human and animal lives.  Volunteers will work with local and international veterinarians, dog handlers, and veterinary nurses to help vaccinate dogs against rabies. What you need to know: This vaccination drive will take place in Goa, India, between October 13th and October 27th, with two days of travel at the beginning and end of the trip. The ideal applicant displays leadership and initiative and would be comfortable working with locals in a foreign country. Applicants do not need a veterinary background but should be comfortable around animals, be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations, and have both a passport and a visa. Brief Media has secured funding for a portion of the participation costs (e.g. lodging, food, and travel in India). Applicants will be responsible for airfare, vaccinations, travel documents, and any optional excursion costs. The e-mail closed with the statement: These volunteer teams have a tremendous impact on the reduction of rabies around the world. Don’t miss your chance to take part in this incredible humanitarian and animal welfare project.”

It’s amazing sometimes how timing works.

Photo courtesy of Clinician’s Brief and Mission Rabies

I responded to the e-mail with major interest, and I was led to an online application, which I filled out.  Part of the application asked me to list three professional references. I went onto Facebook and sent Indu a message, asking if I could list her as a reference.  She was very excited to hear that I was interested, and she personally contacted the volunteer coordinator and put in a good word for me. It definitely is nice to have friends in influential positions.  I filled out the rest of the form and submitted the application. I then headed to Amsterdam, for vacation. I was contacted by e-mail by the coordinator, and taking into account the time difference between the U.S. and Amsterdam, we scheduled a Skype interview which went very well. About two weeks after that, I received the e-mail that I was anxiously hoping for.  My application was approved, and I was invited to join the volunteer team on their upcoming mission to Goa, India.

Next Post – Chapter 2

Clinician’s Brief Podcast about the Mission Rabies project:

New York Times article on Mission Rabies – July 22, 2019 – Rabies Kills Tens of Thousands Yearly. Vaccinating Dogs Could Stop It.

I am delighted to announce that in February 2020, I will once again be joining a team of Mission Rabies volunteers on another vaccination drive. The destination: Ghana!  Our intention, as always, is to vaccinate as many dogs as possible, with a goal of immunizing 70% of the dog population. At this level of immunity, the rabies cycle is broken. To do this type of work is expensive and requires many resources.  If you support the work that I am doing with this amazing organization, I ask that you make a donation to the cause.  Every dollar helps.

Donate to Arnold Plotnick Mission Rabies

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