Thesis defenses and counting dogs in Gondar, the student perspective

By Ally Sterman, 2015 DVM and
Alexandra Medley, 2017 DVM and 2018 MPH/VPH
The Ohio State University

After a 13-hour flight, we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A thought that kept crossing through both of our minds was whether or not our 140 pounds of veterinary medical supplies would make it to Ethiopia, through customs, and with us to Gondar. After locating the correct baggage claim lanes (this airport has 4), we waited patiently for our oversized and heavy baggage. Thankfully we made it with no difficulty through customs and to our airport.

Flights to Gondar leave early morning and we stayed overnight at the Jupiter hotel near the airport in Addis. The view from our room was of a large abandoned field. By day this field was a grazing zone for various sheep and goats, but by night it was a parking lot for local vehicles. After exploring around the area, we ended up calling it an early night.

We arrived to the airport early and upon arrival in Gondar were greeted by our partners from University of Gondar and taken to our hotel. Soon after settling in we headed to the vet school. We had the opportunity to listen to senior veterinary students defending their theses, which is the final project necessary to graduate. There are some striking differences between Ethiopia and U.S. vet school training. In Ethiopia the students defend a final thesis project instead of a cumulative boards exam (USA NAVLE), they attend school for 6 years (USA, 4), and primarily focus on large animal medicine because that is the primary need in the country.

After listening to the defenses we had a meeting with the faculty who helped us organize our dog survey. For the next week we are walking 15 different paths we have plotted through the city to count the roaming dog population and do a brief visual physical exam on each dog. Data we want to collect are the number of dogs seen along the path, sex, age, reproductive status, and any other clues to their health status.

Something we have learned already is how mountainous Gondar is, so although the paths are short, they take a while and we get a great workout. To get to destinations we take buses or taxis which are far more crowded than the average taxi in the US.

street view

Taxis and busy city streets

We have seen many types of dogs so far, from a small Papillon cross to a large Mastiff. Our favorite dog is the mixed breed brown dog who resides directly outside our hotel, affectionately named Kino.


Kino, the dog

Interviews and data collection


Ohio State student Korbin Smith helps interview a farmer in the South Gondar region of Ethiopia.

3nurse interview

Ohio State student Laura Binkley and University of Gondar faculty Dr. Reta Tasfay and Mr. Dagnachew Muluye interview a health care extension nurse about rabies.

Photos by Rick Harrison, Ohio State University Communications

Risk perceptions

By Kristina Slagle

Student, Ohio State College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; School of Environmental and Natural Resources 

Soon after arriving in Addis Ababa, I had the opportunity to give a lecture on risk perceptions to students attending the summer institute. As my driver took me from my hotel to the university, I realized that traffic laws are merely a suggestion here, and pedestrians cross anywhere they can find a break in the traffic. My driver explained that the road we were on went from Addis to Djibouti, so it was constantly busy. Trucks full of construction materials, minibuses used for public transport, and small passenger cars jostled for position, while rickshaws led by mules stayed largely to the side and out of the fray. Needless to say, I was thankful for a driver who knew the unwritten rules of the road!

Once I arrived at the university, I had a bit of lunch, and then I was off to lecture. Throughout the lecture, I asked the students for examples of risk perceptions from Ethiopia, and one student mentioned traffic deaths. At the end of the lecture, we spent some time discussing strategies that had failed and what future efforts to reduce traffic deaths might look like. It was a very rewarding experience having engaged students interested in applying knowledge, and learning about applications within their culture. It’s always wonderful when the learning goes both ways in a classroom!

Now I’m off to Gondar to meet up with our team working on rabies!

University of Gondar graduation

By Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

Yesterday was a day of celebration here in Gondar. The university graduated over 45,00 students today. Students graduating were from a variety of fields and disciplines including undergraduate, masters, and professional students. The University of Gondar also graduated three PhD students in the field of public health from the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, which was a first for the university. Most of the students were undergraduate students with close to 1,000 students from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. Next was Faculty of Natural and Computational Science with 850 students. The Faculty of the Veterinary Medicine will graduate their first class next year though there were students who graduated today with a degree in the field of veterinary public health.

Though a majority of the graduation process was similar there were a few subtle differences between graduation here and at Ohio State. In the states it is typical for graduates to enter to the song Pomp and Circumstance. Today they entered to a different song that seemed to be much shorter and strictly keyboard-based.  Another big difference, here in Gondar they announced and gave awards to students with the highest grades in their respective fields as they graduate. Though we acknowledge them in our programs, with cords or other visual means, we do not announce their names.

There were also a lot of similarities. They had speeches including one from their president and then a special guest speaker. Very similar to Ohio State, they awarded the speaker an honorary degree from the university. They also dressed very similar. Students and faculty were in the black graduation robes with hoods if they were from a degree program that we would hood for, but the undergraduates had sashes where we would have nothing to distinguish the different undergraduate majors.

Below is a video taken while graduates are walking in. Many are seated while quite a few are still walking past. In the background you can hear the music they are entering to, cheers from graduates/families/friends. You can also see some of the professors and external examiners that came to help give exams or determine if candidates were eligible to graduate.