Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams: There When We Need Them

From Hurricane Katrina to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the recent Oklahoma tornadoes, veterinarians and veterinary students have noticed the plight of animals affected by disaster. Thanks to the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, veterinarians and veterinary students also are taking action.

The AVMA’s 185 VMAT volunteers fan out across the country whenever they are needed – as responders, trainers and teachers. They serve as first responders to ensure high-quality care of animals during disasters and emergencies, they provide operational assistance in emergency response programs to state animal health authorities, and they organize and provide training preparedness programs to animal health authorities, veterinary medical associations and even veterinary students.

A recent event held at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine reflects the genuine interest students have in helping animals during times of need. More than 150 of them attended the Disaster Preparedness and Response for Veterinarians workshop, a joint effort between the AVMA VMAT program, Tuskegee’s Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the university, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The program included lectures and hands-on learning that focused on disaster preparedness in the veterinary practice, a primer on what it means to be a disaster responder and an introduction to the personal protective equipment every responder needs to stay safe and do their job.

Dr. Cheryl Eia, the AVMA’s director of emergency response and disaster preparedness, called the event a “huge success,” and she commended the students, the university staff and administration for making it a memorable event for all that attended.

Contact Dr. Eia if you know of a veterinary school that would be interested in hosting a VMAT educational or training event, or if you’re interested in learning more about the program and its volunteer opportunities.

Editor’s Note: The AVMA continues to follow recovery efforts after the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma. Our hearts go out to all affected by these storms.

We have reached out to the Oklahoma State Veterinary Medical Association and are in communication with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and our partners in the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition on ways to best assist in the response and recovery process. The AVMA’s Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams are on standby to provide assistance with veterinary medical care if requested by the State of Oklahoma. We will keep you posted as we learn more.

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