Purdue News

September 24, 2004

Veterinary students from Grenada displaced by Ivan head for Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A group of veterinary students and faculty from Grenada, West Indies, who were displaced by the ravages of Hurricane Ivan will continue their studies at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

About 95 second-year students and 10 faculty from the St. George's University School of Veterinary Medicine are expected to arrive in West Lafayette on the weekend of Oct. 2 and start classes there Oct. 6. They will stay until Dec. 22. Many of the students are Americans who are studying in Grenada.

Hurricane Ivan hit the 122-square-mile island as a category 4 on Sept. 7 and strengthened to a category 5 with winds of up to 165 mph before moving on. About half of the island's 100,000 residents were left homeless, including many St. George's University students living off campus, a choice many veterinary students make because they have pets. The university is about five miles outside of the island's capital. While much of the campus sustained broken windows and water damage, the veterinary teaching hospital was destroyed.

John Van Vleet, Purdue's associate dean for academic affairs for the School of Veterinary Medicine and professor of veterinary pathology, said the decision to help St. George's is partially a result of his friendship with Raymond Sis, dean of the St. George's University School of Veterinary Medicine.

"I go to Grenada every year as a visiting professor in cardiovascular pathology," Van Vleet said. "When I saw that Ivan had hit Grenada, I started calling, but the phones were down and I couldn't get e-mail through. Cell phones didn't work because the towers were destroyed."

As soon as communication lines opened up, Sis got a call through to Van Vleet, asking if Purdue would help St. George's students and faculty finish the semester.

"The support from this end has been amazing," Van Vleet said. "The students are fully behind it. We talked to Purdue Provost Sally Mason, and she was highly supportive of us doing it. We will do an orientation for the faculty and students that will be very similar to our orientation for new students."

The students will remain registered at St. George's but will use Purdue facilities. Purdue students will have the opportunity to help their guests as well, since many lost their notes, schoolbooks and personal belongings in the storm.

Purdue staff members are helping make off-campus housing arrangements for the visiting students and faculty from Grenada.

"I'm sure our students will rise to the occasion and help them every way they can," Van Vleet said. "Our intent is that they will be totally self-sufficient here. We'll provide classroom space, a laboratory, access to the library and the some of our equipment. St. George's University will appoint some of our faculty as visiting professors. They have asked for cardiovascular pathology, which I will do, and specialists in eye and ear, nervous system, and skin. Those are the areas we've agreed to help with."

Alan Rebar, dean of Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, said this is the first time Purdue has shared teaching space with another veterinary school during a crisis, but the faculty, staff and students are happy to help another veterinary school in need.

"We had very little time to react," he said. "We sent out an e-mail asking the faculty for input. We gave them about 24 hours to respond, got about 40 responses, and they were all positive."

Rebar said the class and laboratory use has been scheduled so that it will have no adverse effect on students enrolled at Purdue and cause no disruption of scheduled classes.

Purdue is one of three U.S. veterinary schools to help St. George's continue classes this semester, according to Bob Ryan, associate dean of enrollment planning for St. George's University. About 133 first-year students will be at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh and 66 third-year students at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. St. George's fourth-year students complete their studies at schools off the island and were not affected by the hurricane. Four of those are at Purdue, one of whom just arrived in August.

"We are doing the same thing with our medical students," Ryan said. "The island was devastated. We hadn't had a hurricane since 1955, and no one expected it. Many of our veterinary students lived off campus because of their pets. Many of them lost their homes, lost everything."

The most severe damage to the veterinary school was to the teaching hospital, which doubles as the Grenada Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"We have a veterinary anatomy lab set up as a temporary hospital," Ryan said. "We have received donations of pet food and medical supplies. We received a truckload of dog and cat food from Purina."

Purdue is one of 17 U.S. veterinary schools affiliated with the St. George's veterinary program. The St. George's program requires fourth-year students to complete their studies at another veterinary school in the United States or Europe. The cooperative relationship also includes visiting professors.

"Trying to look on the bright side of this catastrophic situation, this semester at Purdue gives our students the opportunity to experience an excellent U.S. veterinary school," Ryan said. "Since these are second-year students, they will be looking at Purdue as a possible fourth-year placement for themselves. I know many of the veterinary students at Purdue will be very anxious to help them."

While Purdue's veterinary school has never lent its facilities to other schools after a disaster, veterinary students and faculty have provided emergency care for animals injured in other natural disasters.

"We sent a team to Florida to help after Hurricane Andrew," Rebar said. "We sent faculty and students to help give emergency treatment to pets and livestock."

Writer: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133, rwinter@purdue.edu

Sources: Sally Mason, (765) 494-9709

Alan Rebar, (765) 494-7608, rebar@purdue.edu

Bob Ryan, (800) 899-6337, ext. 216, bobryan@sgu.edu

John Van Vleet, (765) 494-9185, vanvleet@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


To the News Service home page

Newsroom Search Newsroom home Newsroom Archive