The Armenian Small Animal Veterinary Association (ArmSAVA) is the youngest member of FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations, and had at the time of our visit just 44 members (hopefully a few more now ?…..). Yerevan has a small veterinary faculty attached to their agricultural department of the local university, but continuing professional development (CPD) was very sparse and this was usually only limited to a single Russian or Ukrainian speaker visiting the area. Our plan was to host a two day event with a set of work shops for up to 10 delegates and with lectures for as many vets and students as possible the following day.
When arriving back in Yerevan, our reinforcements had flown in: Paul Cooper, the President of the British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) and the man who got me introduced to BSAVA (the British Small Animal Veterinary Association) in the first place, had arrived. The only problem was, that all the equipment he was hoping to bring with him had been delayed in Kiew. Thankfully though there was a chance that it might arrive with the next flight at 1:00 am the following day (Paul had arrived the previous night at the hotel at 2:30 am….). Unfortunately Paul was due to start our workshops the next morning and before then he was supposed to rig up his descaler and his power drill to a Russian compressor he had not yet seen……
Changes had to be made quickly…..
Ingrid agreed to start the day with her gastro-enterology workshop, followed by me with a basic abdominal ultrasound workshop (I had brought a couple of second hand portable machines with me, which very kindly had been donated by the German company EICKEMEYER. Both machines had miraculously survived in my hold luggage but the extra luggage had dented the FECAVA accounts….). Paul’s dentistry workshop was moved to the afternoon.
Armenian’s don’t like an early start……
Yahan, our host, had requested that all events would start at 10 am rather than at the customary 8.30 or 9 am, which was certainly no problem for us and especially not for sleep deprived Paul.
When arriving at the university the next day though, the initial sight was sobering….Ingrid was standing in front of an empty class room with a data projector that could not be linked up to her laptop.
While hasty arrangements were made to direct our lost delegates to the right venue, I decided to inspect the facilities for my ultrasound workshop:
I had been given the “best room in the house” – the double consulting room of the university clinic which was brightly lid by a large south facing window. This was an excellent working place for any workshop, but -as there were also no blinds – it was completely useless for diagnostic imaging (because you need a dark and quiet room to fully appreciate the subtle changes of your images).
But as luck had it, there was a dark storage room just opposite of the consulting room which was not pretty, but absolutely perfect for my course. The only thing was, that it was lagging tables and the ones next door were bolted to the floor. Thankfully that could be changed as well: near Ingrid’s class room I had noticed a number of abandoned lab tables which were collecting dust in the staircase.
When returning to that part of the building, Ingrid’s workshop was in full flow, delegates were filling the room and the projector had successfully been connected to the laptop.
I grabbed one of the lab tables and carried it down the street to the clinic and our friendly helpers fetched another one.
Once the machines were set up and running, I started “building” artificial gas filled stomachs and urinary bladders with uroliths out of latex gloves and a couple of pebbles I had found on the street. In the meantime Paul had, together with the veterinary nurse (who was not very pleased about my dusty lab tables and who immediately had subjected them to a thorough deep clean….) successfully connected the Russian compressor with his high end (probably Chinese or Korean made) dental machines and had prepared everything for his workshop as well.
When the delegates arrived, still elated by Ingrid’s excursions into the complex world of the digestive systems of dogs and cats, we immediately set to work on the makeshift models and on the perfect patients which had appeared together with their owners at the same time. Although the performance of the machines was fairly limited, all delegates were at least able to identify the bladder and most of them were lucky enough to find the spleen and one or two kidneys. Not bad considering that we saw only one well working ultrasound machine in all the clinics we visited during our stay.
During our lunch break Vahan’s mobile phone suddenly started ringing (ok, it was actually ringing most of the time…..) – it was the Dean of the University…. Apparently a foreigner had been observed stealing furniture from the main building!……..
Yahan looked at me with a frown – had I asked anyone for permission before taking the tables?…….Nop!…..oh dear……….
Thankfully I did not end up in police custody and the event could progress with Paul’s dental workshop which then concluded the first day.
Actually, this did not conclude the first day, but a visit to probably Yerevan’s best cocktail bar did, where the bar (wo)man – a friend of Hovhannes, Yahan’s colleague and right hand man – demonstrated to us how to mix three Mojito’s, a couple of excellent Singapore Slings and a Pisco Sour in 5 minutes flat…..
6.30 am the next morning I took the trusted Lada for a final spin, trying to find a stretch of countryside for a run with Paul. Although a few years older than me, Paul is a seasoned ultra-runner having recently completed a few 100 milers and 24h races. I had always hoped to get an opportunity to join the great man for a few miles. Unfortunately Yerevan turned out a bit larger and more build up than I thought, so that we had to make do with a run in a not very scenic industrial area on the outskirts of the city, dodging the occasional attacks by the local street and guard dogs. I am sure that this was not the best run we ever had, but at least it was a memorable one…….
Returning to the university a couple of hours later, the room was filled with probably every small animal vet in the country and in addition to that with a fair number of students. Vahan had organised simultaneous translations and Ingrid, Paul and I could delve deep into our respective areas of expertise. It also gave me an opportunity to give a presentation on the “Feline Consult”, a subject close to my heart for which I had specifically visited the Oxford Cat Clinic earlier this year.
The day and our visit finished with a traditional banquet which included not only excellent food and local wine, but also an abundance of toasts, some singing (instigated by me I am afraid) and with dancing until late into the night.
CPD Armenian Style ? To be repeated any time !…….