Only once have I met a vet in a context other than that of vet school or a clinic, and the chance encounter happened this summer in the most unlikely of places. I was invited by a friend to an iftar, the nightly breakfast meal during the Islamic month of Ramadan. I had been to several in the states but never to one in Hong Kong. Suddenly, I found myself at a table of unparalleled diversity, seating people who hailed from Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Nigeria. It just so happened that the man from Nigeria was a vet! It was refreshing to meet “one of my kind” in an unexpected situation. We talked about his research and soon-due thesis on coronaviruses as well as his desire to prevent disease outbreaks in West Africa.
Fast forward two weeks. During the tail end of my stay in Beijing, I had the opportunity to visit the Beijing Raptor Rescue Center. I’d been emailing with the staff since January, and I finally met the workers in person, took a tour of the facilities, and received some brochures, which I gave out to my students. I saw common kestrels, scops owls, a cinereous vulture, and a peregrine falcon, to name a few of the species. Seeing all these birds elicited memories from my time at the Israeli Wildlife Hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari, where I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. Finding a place in the heart of Beijing that had common core values of protecting wild species and raising public awareness of animal welfare issues was awesome.
Although the meeting with the rehabbers in Beijing was prearranged and the one with the Nigerian vet was happenstance, both events were very meaningful for me. We were able to discuss our mutual interests and have comfort in knowing we all care about the same thing. Because the veterinary profession is so diverse and spread out around the world, when its members meet, we have to stick together!