A unique program by veterinarians for future veterinarians

CARES Project is a veterinary-specific field externship for pre-vet and vet students broken into a three-component approach: CARES Insights, Clinical Encounters, and Immersive Experiences. It is an experiential learning program to gain knowledge, hands-on skills, and authority on the big picture of international and conservation medicine. Different than a volunteer program, CARES Project is a true externship focused on developing you, the participant, across multiple hands-on settings in a study abroad field course. It is designed to help prepare you as an applicant to vet school, build a credentialed CV, and assist you in your goals as a veterinary student doctor. The leadership and creativity developed in a challenging field setting will serve participants in any realm of veterinary medicine. Set in a breathtaking archipelago of Panama, working as a team, you will experience culture, adventure, and lots of fun while building lifelong friendships.

Core Session Externship Components

This page describes the 2-week Core session activities (for Spring Break see below). Students who elect to enhance their experience with the 2-week Expanded session spend a total of 4-weeks at the Smithsonian. Having completed the Core session, students find an area in which they would like to spend more time. The Expanded session consists of an elective focus area and independent endeavor created with your mentor. It was created to allow students an opportunity for deeper involvement in the role as a conservation vet (it is not a repeat of the activities of the core program). Our goal is always to maximize the ways our program will benefit the student. The expectation of the student is to enthusiastically pursue his or her own interest guided by their veterinary mentor, and enjoy practicing the process of thinking like a conservation vet!

The Spring Break Conservation Medicine Excursion is composed of many of the elements of the 2-week Core session. Due to time restrictions it is condensed, but just as rewarding. As a survey course, you will have a better idea abut the meaning of Conservation Medicine, and experience the surrounding ecosystems.


CARES Insights

Your schedule will include daily group meetings falling into formal “Topic Discussions” of an academic nature and informal “Roundtables” surrounding our activities. Topic Discussions cover relevant subjects such as: conservation, medical cases, specific species, wildlife rehabilitation, captive animal welfare, roles of the conservation and wildlife vet, and your personal career development. In the Roundtables, students prepare for an outreach, debrief about their activities, and deliver mini-presentations. CARES Insights usually occurs on-campus at the Smithsonian; however, meetings may also occur impromptu in the jungle or on the beach.


Clinical Encounters

These are hands-on activities with your veterinarian mentor, working with wild and domestic species. This off-campus component includes: participating in our wildlife rescue center medical services, indigenous community mobile outreach vet clinic, SNIP sessions (spay neuter in paradise), necropsy, cadaver skills lab, emergency response, and sanctuary management projects. You will have the opportunity to stay and work at the Monkey Island Primate Sanctuary overnight, participating in the care we provide there.

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Immersive Experiences

A cornerstone of CARES as an international medicine vet program is to understand the role of conservation within the concept of One Health (defined as the overlap of animal, human, and ecosystem health). It is a strongly emphasized area in vet school and critical to wildlife and conservation vets. Knowledge about the concept as a pre-vet sets you a part. To expand this appreciation, we explore various ecosystem field sites and conservation projects (such as sustainable farming, sea turtles and coral reefs). This enables the student to delve into conservation challenges, solutions, One Health issues, and of course, take in the rich culture of Panama.


CARES Project Foundation for the support of students and animals.