CARES Project

hosted by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)


A hands-on veterinary externship on the front lines of conservation and international health, providing an adventure in education.

Nestled in a tropical rainforest jungle and Caribbean coast archipelago.

Panama Summer 2019 Sessions May 12-August 18

  • Perform treatments as part of our mobile veterinary clinic in indigenous villages...large, small, and wild animals!

  • A monkey sanctuary hosting 5 species of native primates, is in need of our veterinary care! Know which monkey species uses a bird call?

  • Participate with scientists at the world's leading institution in international sea turtle field research.

  • Snorkel in a coastline full of giant pink starfish and coral reefs in the pristine waters of the Caribbean while learning about veterinary concerns in ecosystem health.

  • Visit the only island in the world home to the endangered Pygmy Sloth (elective trip subject to conditions).

  • Enjoy the academic benefits of building an application or CV by working with AVMA*-accredited and Panamanian veterinarians, and PhD-level researchers on empirically-based conservation projects. *American Veterinary Medical Association

  • CARES Project is a hands-on mentorship and field course based at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Bocas del Toro Station. As a program created by veterinarians for future veterinarians, we call it a mentorship due to the intimate level of teaching one-on-one and in small groups. The focus is to provide experience and knowledge not commonly available to pre-vets, or taught in veterinary school. Students pursuing a veterinary career need access to knowledgeable, patient mentors who care about enhancing their skills and supporting their career goals. In a safe learning environment with a team of expert instructors, you will work with new species, develop a deep understanding about international conservation challenges, and expand what you offer the field of veterinary medicine.


Our Primate Project Manager, Lorena, explains that monkeys as pets are nearly never a good idea, their infancy can last 2 years and that is the easiest phase! Then what for the mischievious next 25 years?? Most of them end up in neglectful or inappropriate environments, and cannot be re-released to the wild because they don't have the skills they would have learned. Monkey Island provides a sanctuary for these former pets which are part of the illegal exotic pet trade. CARES vets and students provide veterinary care and management support for these remarkable animals.

Discover the home of CARES in Panama:

There are not enough superlatives to describe the CARES Project and my experience there. I met and worked with amazing people who became dear friends and learned how to care for animals who I would otherwise have never encountered. Each student will have a unique experience because the demands of the environment will be different, but I can assure you, it will be no less amazing.



Anna Kristina Hugel
Gap Year Student
Loyola University
Update: Accepted to LSU Vet School


CARES Project’s Dr. Rubin in Costa Rica, facilitating the filming of Animal Planet: Vet Gone Wild (Season 1 Episode 8)

A local tourist town in Costa Rica is observing a health problem in their native monkeys. CARES Project, veterinary externship program, is helping combat the problem. A Costa Rican TV documentary, La Nave Animal, comes to feature the story.