International Travel Spotlight

Elizabeth Wall combines veterinary medicine, Spanish skills on Bolivia mission trip

Elizabeth Wall knew that she wanted to be a veterinarian since age 8, but it wasn’t until she was in high school that she learned about the Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM). Her church gave an update about the work of a CVM fieldworker and she left the presentation feeling “amazed.”

Elizabeth Wall with her host family in Bolivia

During her trip, Wall spent two weeks living with a host family, which she described as the best way to learn about Bolivian culture.

“I looked for ways to get involved with CVM as soon as I got to veterinary school and I participated in two one-week trips during my classroom years of vet school,” said Wall, who is now a fourth-year student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, in a Q&A on the Christian Veterinary Mission’s blog.

Wall visited Haiti in 2012 and Honduras in 2013. One of her peers, Erica Geary (DVM ’14), who went to Haiti with her, participated in a fourth-year apprenticeship in Mongolia for six weeks that piqued her interest in missions further. “She came back with a much more detailed understanding of missions and discernment,” Wall said. “I had often wondered where I fit into global missions—whether travel was a fun adventure for me or if living in another country was more of a long-term calling.”

The Gresham, Oregon native decided to explore this interest through the CVM Mission Apprenticeship Program and signed up for a six-week mission in Bolivia in the summer of 2014.

“I chose Bolivia because I have consistently felt called to study and practice Spanish and work with the Latino community,” said Wall, who holds degrees in both Spanish and biology from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. “I wanted to go somewhere that would allow me to blend my Spanish language skills with veterinary medicine.”

Elizabeth Wall with a cow in Bolivia

Elizabeth Wall, a fourth-year student in the college's food animal track, taught about livestock disease and vaccination and worked on a large beef ranch during her six-week trip to Bolivia.

During her trip to Bolivia, Wall worked with three CVM fieldworkers in several communities in the South American country. She visited small cities like Trinidad in the Amazon basin, large cities like Santa Cruz, and indigenous communities in the Chaco, a rural autonomous region on the country’s southern border.

“I spent time building relationships with Bolivian veterinary students, participated in small animal surgery clinics, observed and assisted with surgeries and diagnostics in two veterinary teaching hospitals, taught about livestock disease and vaccination, and worked on a large beef ranch,” said Wall, who is in the college’s food animal track. “I also got to be a member of the missionary community, participating in Bible studies and church services alongside missionaries from many organization and countries—people involved in projects ranging from schools to children’s homes to community-building coffee shops.”

Wall spent two weeks living with a host family, an experience she described as the best way to understand the local culture. She still maintains contact with several Bolivian nationals she met during her mission trip and enjoyed the experience so much that she would have returned to Bolivia the moment she got off the plane in Washington, D.C.

“I definitely feel called to continue to use veterinary medicine as a vehicle for ministry,” Wall said. “My time in Bolivia pointed me strongly toward using my Spanish communication skills in combination with veterinary medicine and I’m currently hoping to enter practice in the United States in an area with many Spanish speakers.”

Read a full Q&A with Elizabeth Wall on the Christian Veterinary Mission’s blog.

Elizabeth Wall assists with an examination of a dog in Bolivia

Wall also participated in small animal surgery clinics and observed and assisted with surgeries and diagnostics at two veterinary teaching hospitals in Bolivia.