Vet training program links rabies knowledge to hands-on vaccination practices

Dr. Meriam Micklay collecting GARC educational materials for a campaign in Baguio City. Photo: Roxanne Bunayog, UPLVSA

To bridge the gap between classroom teaching and practical experience, an all-female veterinary association at the University of the Philippines (UP) recently participated in their annual veterinary medicine field training program—with a focus on rabies education. The program, known as the Service through Extension and Training (or SET), provides a venue for the members of the Lady Veterinary Students’ Association (UPLVSA) to apply what was learned in their academic coursework to actual, real-world experiences in the field and give back to the community at the same time.

This year’s SET program, held in January 2018 in Baguio City, emphasized improving students’ rabies control knowledge and the practical aspects of rabies vaccination campaigns. These annual SET programs are typically coordinated and supported by community and government units, and this year, the GARC Philippines office stepped into this role and provided technical input and materials for the training event, including instruction in the Rabies Educator Certificate (REC).

Vet student vaccinating a dog during a fixed point vaccination. Photo: Roxanne Bunayog, UPLVSA

Dr. Dianne Licuan represented the GARC team during the SET event, and lectured on the guidelines for conducting a mass vaccination campaign for dogs, emphasizing proper animal handling and vaccination techniques. A pre-test indicated that students were already fairly knowledgeable about rabies, but there were some gaps, especially in the areas of disease transmission and communication/information dissemination techniques. Further group discussions of these topics allowed students to explore some difficult concepts related to rabies, including transmission through the preparation and consumption of illegally slaughtered dog meat and the vaccination regimen for someone who has received bites from multiple suspected rabid animals in a short period.

The students then conducted a rabies mass-vaccination campaign in coordination with Baguio City’s local veterinary office and the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory office. A fixed point style rabies mass vaccination campaign was run by five different student groups at different points in the area around the Department of Agriculture Office; but students eventually also implemented a house-to-house campaign to increase the number of dogs vaccinated. To assist the students, government and UPLVSA alumni veterinarians were on hand to coordinate with the Baguio City Veterinary Office throughout the SET event to provide guidance for the students as they vaccinated 160 dogs and cats in the neighborhood that day.

The lady vets posing with local veterinary staff from Baguio. Photo: Roxanne Bunayog, UPLVSA

Students were exposed to many different fields of veterinary medicine during the SET program, aside from rabies control. Additional hands-on experiences were offered on surveillance, laboratory sample collection and processing, slaughterhouse and meat processing implementation, dairy cattle management, and milk processing. In addition to the technical knowledge and the new skills, students learned how to work in partnership with local government officials across different sectors to implement various veterinary activities, providing a skill set essential for the success of future vaccination campaigns.

Summarized by Laura Baker, GARC, from the SET activity report by Dianne Licuan, GARC Philippines