New RSO takes on UD’s global initiative

August 6, 2013 under CANR News

UD's VIDA takes trip to Central AmericaAs the winter holidays were winding down and most students were taking their well-needed winter break, six University of Delaware students opted for an alternative to their vacation. The students were members of UD’s chapter of Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA), a new Registered Student Organization (RSO) on campus. The club was founded by Jessica Applebaum, a senior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major, and it stands to promote education for general health care problems abroad.

The national non-profit organization VIDA, from which the club adopts its mission, leads trips to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The service learning charity is dedicated to its mission of helping underprivileged citizens of Latin America with medical, dental and veterinary services, and divides members on the trips into teams in those three areas.

VIDA encourages the combining and exchanging of ideas across the different health professions, allowing students to broaden their perspectives within their own discipline. This growing ideology is one factor contributing to the increased competitiveness of pre-health professional schooling.

Members of UD’s VIDA teamed with the non-profit to travel from January 3-15 to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where they worked in medical and veterinary clinics getting hands-on experience.

UD had representatives traveling on both the medical and veterinary teams, and when they weren’t touring the beautiful country sides, volcanoes and rain forests, they were working in free mobile medical and veterinary clinics supervised by both doctors and veterinarians.

Within six days, the medical team performed general consults and ran a free pharmacy for a total of 365 patients. The veterinary team performed general consults, administered vaccinations, and spayed and neutered a total of 203 animals including cats, dogs and rabbits.

“The experience has been incredibly valuable and has really opened my eyes to issues in the health care system abroad, especially in Nicaragua which is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere,” said Applebaum. “And the people there were so great. Our host family cried when we left and we were only with them for four days.” She also expressed how grateful the people were for the donations they received, recalling one mother standing in line for the clinic crying as she was handed some clothes.

Donation drive

To prepare for the trip, the club hosted two donation drives, one before they left and another after their return from Latin America. The drives received everything from hygiene products and toys to clothes, dog collars, and school supplies.

All the donations were shipped to Nicaragua by the non-profit and distributed this June to a preschool located in one of the charity’s adopted communities in Masaya. The more recent spring donation drive also went on to receive national recognition by the parent organization, who published an article about it this past July–an impressive feat for the first year RSO.

UD's VIDA takes trip to Central AmericaAnother donation drive is said to be in the planning for next November, and the RSO hopes to get the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the wider UD community aware and involved.

The club is also hoping to have a spot at activities night, a night where UD students have the opportunity to find extra and co-curricular activities, to promote themselves and to reach out to students who might be interested in taking advantage of trips offered through the founder charity.

“You don’t have to be in the club to go on the trips, and you don’t have to go on a trip to be in the club. Either is a great opportunity and our RSO is simply an avenue to connect you to resources and experiences like these,” said Applebaum, who is also trying to get more local volunteer opportunities for club members.

Erin Brannick, a veterinary pathologist and assistant professor at CANR, eagerly jumped on board as the RSO’s advisor after hearing of the organization’s mission at an American Veterinary Medical Association conference.

Brannick said it was important for her to try to seek out opportunities that will change medical outlooks and benefit her students throughout their careers. “The students that seek out these kinds of immersive experiences end up being more well-rounded candidates for health-based professional schools, being able to offer a unique perspective that incorporates varying socio-cultural and economic outlooks to their respective field.” Some of the students, she said, have seen diseases she has only ever read about in textbooks.

Applebaum said, “I received clinical experience I could have never imagined on this trip. When I—hopefully–become a Vet, I’d like to do stuff like this–travelling abroad to help underprivileged people care for their pets.”

Aside from the veterinary exposure, she also got to put her Spanish minor to use by translating for some of the local pet owners who came to the clinics.

Emily Fritz, a member of the RSO who also traveled with the non-profit and who plans on applying to veterinary school, said “I think these trips are great alternative breaks for students applying to medical, dental, or veterinary professional schools, as well as for those students that want to gain a more global perspective on healthcare. It’s definitely made me a stronger applicant.”

Students interested in joining VIDA, attending a trip through the parent organization, or donating to the next drive are asked to e-mail Applebaum or visit “VIDA at UD” on Facebook.

Students interested pursuing health-based professional careers are asked to contact Dave Barlow or visit the Center for Premedical and Health Profession Studies website.

Article by Angela Carcione

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Brannick brings Veterinary Pathology experience to CANR

November 17, 2011 under CANR News

After leaving Philadelphia in 2006 to head to Ohio State University (OSU) for veterinary school, Erin Brannick thought that she and her husband were done with the east coast. “We both decided—or we thought—that we were mid-westerners,” said Brannick. Little did she know that in five years time, she’d be back by the Atlantic, working at the University of Delaware.

Hired in September, Brannick, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the director of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Comparative Pathology Laboratory, said that she knew UD was the place for her the moment she arrived for her interview. “I love UD and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I would say that from the moment I came for my interview, it was immediately this sense of peace and this sense of home.”

Brannick said that all of her colleagues have been wonderful and loves how open everyone is to research collaboration. She notes that she has “been really impressed with the caliber of the students as well. I’ve gotten wonderful chances to meet quite a few of the pre-veterinary students as they’ve come in to talk with me about various things. Just to hear about their experiences here and how excited they are about the University and what it has to offer has been very encouraging.”

Brannick has already met with potential students as well, serving as a recruit for the students interested in the University. After sitting in on a single recruiting session for Kimberly Yackoski, assistant dean for student services at CANR, Brannick recalls that the very next day, Yackoski asked if she could meet with a recruit as early as that Friday. Brannick joked, “ ‘Do you think I already know enough to do this?’ But it was a lot of fun. I had a great student. I remember my own undergrad recruiting sessions where you go and talk with professors and I remember the ones that really stood out to me, so I hope to provide that to students considering UD.”

Having completed her undergraduate degree at Wittenburg University, a liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio, Brannick went on to veterinary school at OSU where she earned her veterinary degree (DVM) in 2006 and then her masters degree and ACVP-board certification in veterinary pathology in 2010.

It was near the end of her stint in OSU veterinary school that Brannick decided that she wanted to be a veterinary pathologist instead of a small animal private practitioner. Brannick likened veterinary pathology to putting together pieces of a puzzle, connecting the dots between healthy and un-healthy animal tissue, and then diagnosing a disease. “Compared to what I would expect in a normal tissue, what is different? And when you see something different, whether it’s inflammation or cancer or a degenerative process or anything, then it’s up to you to put the pieces together.”

UD will benefit from this pathology expertise as Brannick heads the Comparative Pathology Laboratory. The lab is located in Worrilow Hall and Brannick said that she works there with Joanne Kramer, a research associate in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. While the majority of their work supports the poultry diagnostic laboratories of Delaware and Maryland, the two “welcome outside submissions, even outside of our department, and we’re happy to collaborate when people need advice or just thoughts on how to proceed with collecting tissues.”

Another area where Brannick will help CANR is that she is a valuable resource for any student interested in applying to veterinary school. Having served on the veterinary admissions committee at OSU, Brannick has been involved behind the scenes and knows what admissions committees are looking for in candidates.

“The big things that veterinary schools are going to look for are strong academic skills, strong leadership and involvement both in the University and also in community,” in addition to varied animal experience and strong communication skills.

Brannick said that she welcomes students and faculty to stop by her office, 41 Townsend Hall, to discuss plans for veterinary school or upcoming research projects.

“I would say that I have an open door policy, even when my door is closed. When you’re doing diagnostic work, you sometimes have to concentrate so carefully that it’s easier to work when the doors are closed but anybody is welcome at anytime.”

Entering her third month of working at the University of Delaware, Brannick is indeed happy to have returned to the east coast and excited to call CANR home.

Article by Adam Thomas

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