CARES Project is on HIATUS for the 2020 year and Summer program. We are not accepting applications at this time.

CARES Project

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

Nestled in a tropical rainforest jungle and Caribbean coast archipelago.

Bocas del Toro Field Station, Panama

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, either one-on-one or in small groups. The focus is to provide experience and knowledge not commonly available to pre-vets nor taught in the veterinary school curriculum. 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 to 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)