Veterinary intern blog: Maryna recounts her experience at Mayhew in Georgia
Maryna Mullerman recently interned at Mayhew in Georgia as part of her studies at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in the USA. In this blog she talks about how she found out about our work and her role at the clinic.
“Why Georgia?” many people asked me when I told them I was planning to embark on a project in the heart of the Caucasus region. My short answer was “the dogs, the mountains, and the wonderful people.” But the longer answer was, of course, more complex. I am currently a third-year veterinary student at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in the United States. Over the course of my studies I developed a particular interest in animal population control as a part of global One Health. I was incredibly lucky that a Cornell alumnus who is currently living in Georgia connected me with the wonderful Mayhew team in Tbilisi.
As Mayhew has successfully implemented the Trap-Vaccinate-Neuter-Return (TVNR) program in Georgia, I was very excited to join their team for an eight-week long internship to learn the ropes of population control.
The country of Georgia itself holds a special place in my heart. Growing up in Ukraine, I was always cautious around the stray dogs that roamed the streets of my city yet recognised them as an integral part of my community. I am well aware of how important street animals can be for local residents and, therefore, humane population control measures such as TVNR programmes are essential to improve animal welfare, protect community health, and preserve the human-animal bond.
I was so glad to learn that at the Mayhew clinic, the dogs received not only the life-saving rabies vaccine but also the essential vaccines against parvovirus, distemper, and leptospirosis. This protection against common infectious diseases dramatically improves the animal’s life expectancy and quality of life. As a part of my experience, I also brushed up on the proper restraint techniques, calculated drug dosages, place catheters and endotracheal tubes, and administered numerous intramuscular and subcutaneous injections. I learned all the steps of pre- and post-operative care while Dr. Ana coached me through every part of their sterilisations and neutering.
My favourite part about working on population control was the weekly mobile clinics that Mayhew, along with Doggie Doc, organised in the small town of Mtskheta. Every Tuesday, our team drove out to Mtskheta for a whole-day fast-paced sterilization clinic. There, we did 12-13 surgeries a day and worked with limited resources. As of July 2023, Mayhew had already sterilised nearly 70% of the stray dog population in Mtskheta – an immense achievement made possible by the dedicated doctors, volunteers, mobile clinic organizers, and the local community.
During my eight-week internship, Mayhew was rolling out the first comprehensive Tbilisi dog count. This is a key step toward understanding population dynamics, rate of reproduction, and the impact of the TVNR program currently in place. Along with other team members, I got to contribute to this monumental project. From 6 o’clock in the morning, I walked the narrow streets of the Georgian capital and counted every stray dog that I encountered using a dedicated mobile app to record all the data. I know how important this project is for the local community and cannot wait to see it completed!
My time with the Mayhew team in Georgia has been absolutely unforgettable. Not only did I gain essential surgical skills that will prepare me for my future career in veterinary medicine, but the Mayhew team has shown me a different side of veterinary profession: one where the veterinarian is a mediator, educator, and an advocate.
I want to extend my gratitude to everyone who has made my summer externship unforgettable: Dr. Ana, Caroline, Dr. Tato, Dr. Ani, Nina, Vito, Aleksandra, and Paata. Thank you so much! I already miss you!