Personally, and professionally, Francisco Carvallo is deeply invested in spreading veterinary knowledge across Latin America.

Carvallo, clinical associate professor of veterinary pathology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is a native of Chile, president of the Latin Comparative Pathology Group, and vice president for Latin America with the Davis-Thompson Foundation, a 50-year-old organization dedicated to the advancement of veterinary and comparative pathology education worldwide. 

With that purpose in mind, Carvallo visited Guatemala and Nicaragua this summer to provide veterinary pathology education in those Central American nations.

The visit to Nicaragua, joining Guillermo Rimoldi of Clemson University, was particularly groundbreaking, as it was the Davis-Thompson Foundation’s first workshop in that nation often closed to visitors form Western nations. 

Large group of veterinarians posing for a picture outside.
Guillermo Rimoldi (at center) with some of the attendees to the necropsy workshop at the first meeting of the Davis-Thomas Foundation Nicaraguan subdivision. Photo courtesy of Francisco Carvallo.
Large group of veterinarians gathered outside.
Francisco Carvallo initiates the necropsy workshop on a warm day. Photo courtesy of Francisco Carvallo.
Lecture at a conference.
Francisco Carvallo teaches a class during the international conference of veterinary medicine and zootechnics. Photo courtesy of Francisco Carvallo.

“It was an enthusiastic group who really wanted to learn,” Carvallo said of the group he helped teach in Nicaragua. “These were mostly veterinary students and faculty, and a few veterinarians too.”

Carvallo and Rimoldi led a two-day “congress” with several lectures and a necropsy workshop, which was conducted outside amid 100-degree heat and swarming insects. Several species of animals were examined with many students seeing necropsies performed for the first time. 

“l like to teach student veterinarians to realize what they have in front of them gives them a lot of information,” Carvallo said. “You lose more by not looking than by not knowing.”

The trip to Guatemala, by comparison, had simpler access, more modern facilities, students with more advanced prior training — and more vehicle traffic. 

“Sometimes people look at Latin America as one thing, but I’d say every country is a different world, they have different things going on,” Carvallo said. 

Carvallo joined Corrie Brown of the University of Georgia and Javier Asin of the University of California, Davis, in conducting a three-day pathology workshop followed by a one-day seminar on respiratory diseases, all hosted by Déborah Rodríguez and Mónica Solórzano of the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. 

Group of veterinarians posing in front of a building.
Participants of the workshop on Pathology and Basic Mechanisms of Disease and IV Guatemalan seminar. Photo courtesy of Francisco Carvallo.
Small group of veterinarians talking at a table.
Student interact during the Workshop on Pathology and Basic Mechanisms of Disease and IV. Photo courtesy of Francisco Carvallo.

“What we do is we go there with different scenarios,” Carvallo said. “We plan a list for the workshop — scenarios printed on a piece of paper. You put it out there, they discuss it, and then we do activities with those scenarios. So we bring the experience in, on top of what they've learned.”

Carvallo has helped open doors for students who might not otherwise have had opportunities. He is working with two students in Nicaragua on a paper about a canine parasite.

There is also the hope that some of the more advanced students can seek graduate degrees abroad. Doing so from Nicaragua can be problematic, especially to the U.S., because of the nation’s travel restrictions. One possible option is for students to receive advanced training in Mexico, but even getting a visa to travel there can be difficult.

Perhaps most importantly, knowledge is transmitted and skills developed in current and future veterinarians who monitor food safety in the Central American nations. 

“These are the people who are going to be inspecting carcasses in the slaughterhouses,” Carvallo said. 

Teaching the sessions in Guatemala and Nicaragua also influences how Carvallo approaches veterinary education at Virginia Tech.

“I will put much more emphasis on doing things without too much technology, just with a knife.,” Carvallo said. “In a necropsy, you don't need too much technology in order to understand what's going on. That way keeps you humble.”

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