Project Samana June 4th-10th 2023

As one of the 2023 MVTA Technician Grant recipients, I recently traveled to Samana, Dominican Republic to volunteer my time and technician skills in a weeklong spay/neuter clinic. The group I traveled with is called Project Samana, which consists of an amazing group of Veterinary Professionals all donating their time, supplies, and expertise to help provide medical care to the homeless and owned pets from Samana.

Samana is a small town in the Dominican Republic, about 3 hours from the Santo Domingo airport. The team flies into Santo Domingo and loads up rental cars full of supplies for the clinic. We filled suitcases with donations of flea and tick medications, Heartworm medications, antibiotics, pee pads, collars, leashes, and many more items. The drive from the airport can be a bit hairy, but it is beautiful to see the countryside and especially wonderful once we arrived in Samana. We stayed at the Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa in Samana, which was 5 minutes from the clinic set up downtown. The team all arrived at the hotel between 2 pm and 6 pm on Sunday, and all met together for dinner and to prepare for the clinic starting the next morning. We got our general assignments and went to bed early to be well-rested to work hard the next day.

Monday morning, we hit the ground running.  Our team worked wonderfully together right from the start; it was almost as if we had worked together before (but we hadn’t!). We quickly started pre-medicating patients, one after the other. By lunch, we had completed 30 surgeries!  We all took a break back to the hotel to eat, clean up a bit, and then returned to finish out the rest of the surgeries for the day. Overall, we completed between 50-60 cases each day.  Our anesthesia cases ranged from cat/dog spays, neuter, aural hematoma repairs, leg amputations, an enucleation, and abscess repairs.  We saw a couple of TVT (Transmissible Venereal Tumors) in dogs, which we treat with injectable Vincristine.  One of our technicians in the group was a VTS in Anesthesia and taught team members how to do Retrobulbar blocks, epidurals, and even led the team in a code with successful resuscitation after two rounds of CPR! It was amazingly educational, fun, and a great learning experience for all.  We all learned very quickly that the patients' temps run much higher than at home (some 105+ before surgery!), and that they often have tick-borne illness causing anemia and tons of parasites (fleas, ticks, etc). Regardless, the patients did very well for the most part and kept us on our toes while under anesthesia.

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday we ran clinics from 8 am-5 pm, and on Wednesday the group went horseback riding to El Rincon, one of the local beaches.  The locals put together a group of horses for us to ride through the jungle, then onto the beach and through the water. We also got to take a break to swim for a bit, before riding back.  We grabbed lunch under a thatched roof at a wonderful local restaurant nearby, while the downpour of rain began that just missed us.

On Friday the team finished up our last day of procedures and took about 3 hours to take inventory of all of our supplies for the next team to come in August.  Inventory is a huge undertaking, and much needed so the next team can be prepared and restock all the supplies we used.  In the end, we completed 196 surgeries, which we were told is a record for the number of doctors/team size we had. We were also treated to a Catamaran ride on Friday afternoon by a local friend of the organization. It was much needed after a week of hard work!

I am so grateful to the MVTA for choosing me for this grant and helping support Project Samana in return.  I chose to become a Veterinary Technician because of my love for animals, and participating in trips such as Project Samana reminds me of why I became a Veterinary Technician in the first place.  We all work in stressful environments in this career, and taking trips where I can donate my time is where I truly shine.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.



Heidi Soffron