Dr. Eddy Attends Board Meeting, Fundraiser, and AAZV Conference in the United StatesBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Monday, October 27th, 2014 in Blog.
Dr. Eddy will soon make the long journey home to Goma, DRC, but the Head Field Vet has certainly had an exciting three weeks in the United States as his travels brought him to Houston, Texas for the Gorilla Doctors board meeting and fundraiser gala at the Houston Zoo, and to Orlando, Florida for the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) 46th annual conference. Dr. Eddy was awarded the AAZV’s International Conference Scholarship, which covered his travel expenses to and from Africa and conference registration fee.
A host of generous Gorilla Doctors supporters also made this trip possible, including Lisa Bidelspach, founder of Step One (a partner organization to Gorilla Doctors), who provided meals, transportation and graciously opened up her home for Dr. Eddy to stay while in Houston. Staff at the Houston Zoo hospital planned a week of great activities for Dr. Eddy and many of our board members spent time with the Head DRC Field Vet while in town. Joe Bielitski and Tammie Bettinger hosted him in Orlando, the veterinary team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom included Dr. Eddy in their week’s work and AAZV’s Dr. Enrique Yarto served as Dr. Eddy’s host at Disney’s Coronado Springs Convention Center and Resort for the annual conference.
While in Houston, Dr. Eddy visited the Houston Zoo and zoo hospital, receiving some additional training from their veterinary team and participating in rounds for the zoo animals. He also visited the Harris County Veterinary Medical Foundation (HCVMF), a “nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to promoting public awareness of the medical and humane issues affecting the health and welfare of animals and public health”. While at HCVMF, Dr. Eddy gave a presentation about the Gorilla Doctors and our programs in DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The following day, the DRC Field Vet participated in the Gorilla Doctors board meeting, where directors Drs. Mike Cranfield and Kirsten Gilardi convened with 14 board members to discuss the latest successes and challenges in the field. The day concluded with a large-scale fundraising dinner at the Houston Zoo, “Celebrating Gorillas in the Wild”, which benefitted both Gorilla Doctors and the GRACE center for Grauer’s gorillas in the DRC. “More than 500 people were there, including all of our board members …. it was my first time to attend such a big fundraising event” said Dr. Eddy.
On October 17th, Dr. Eddy flew to Orlando, Florida to attend the annual AAZV conference, where he gave a presentation on cardiovascular and hepatic disease in wild eastern gorillas. “This was my first time to present a scientific paper to such a large audience of international peers. I was most honored to be the only African wildlife veterinarian who presented at the conference.”
Over 90 veterinarians and wildlife professionals gave talks at the conference, including Dr. Mike Cranfield, Gorilla Doctors Director. The topics ranged from zoological medicine, to the One Health initiative to fundraising for wildlife health projects. “It was a great opportunity to meet new colleagues in the field of veterinary medicine, as well as visit with old friends and share field experiences with other veterinarians” said Dr. Eddy. “I met many people who have heard and read about my work through the Gorilla Doctors blog. They were very excited to meet me. My network of skilled and experienced veterinarians in wildlife medicine has really grown!”
Dr. Eddy also managed to squeeze in a visit to Patti Ragan’s Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, FL, courtesy of the GRACE and Disney team, where he saw rescued orangutans, chimpanzees and various other primates!
“I give my special thanks to all of the wonderful people who made this trip possible for me” said Dr. Eddy. “It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before – the experience of a lifetime!” As Dr. Eddy makes his way home to his family in DRC, he has plenty of new friends and memories to reflect on and will surely be returning to his gorilla patients envigorated and with a renewed sense of purpose!