Dr. Audra Blasi (pictured above) earned her DVM degree from Oklahoma State University in 2014. She currently serves as an Air Force Public Health Officer stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base.
“I get my animal fix by working as a relief veterinarian at San Antonio Animal Care Services, the city’s shelter,” says Blasi. “There I see a little bit of everything from chickens and potbellied pigs to cats and dogs.”
Blasi also volunteers as a member of the Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team (TAMU VET).
“I became interested in disaster response and TAMU VET my second year of vet school after I attended the AAEP Equine Wetlab held annually at Texas A&M,” states Blasi. “I kept in touch with the program and came down for their two week disaster response rotation as one of my fourth year preceptors. I really enjoyed it and what they do so I asked to join the team.”
Blasi has participated in three exercises. The first in 2014 was a radiation release response. The second in 2015 was a hurricane response. This year was a flood/tornado response.
“Every year we just get better and we all learn a little more. If nothing goes wrong, you didn’t do it right. It sounds cheeky, but it’s true. We can plan and exercise and prepare as much as we want, but something is always going to go wrong. Something is going to break, the weather might be miserable. It’s all about how you adapt and still accomplish the response.
“People truly appreciate us being there. That animal might be all a person has left after a disaster and our presence might be the first step to recovery and normalness for them. It seems small, but it’s huge to those affected,” she adds.
Local response teams are becoming more and more common as people see the need and value for animal care in conjunction with human care.
“Your local emergency response groups and first responders or your state veterinary association might be able to guide you in a direction locally if you’re interested,” says Blasi. “The VET (Veterinary Emergency Team at Texas A and M) is always open to talk to you and even invite you down to an exercise if you want to practice large scale. Visit the Veterinary Emergency Team webpage for contact information.
For information on how to assist with animals affected by emergencies in Oklahoma, talk with your city and county emergency response personal and your county animal response team.
Dr. Deb Zoran (left), Medical Operations Officer for TAMU VET, discusses strategy with Dr. Audra Blasi.
Dr. Audra Blasi (far right) helps teammates erect a triage center and shelter space for animals (two 19’ x 35’ tents) during the disaster response drill.
Dr. Audra Blasi (kneeling on the left) holds a dog while another team member treats it during the disaster response drill.
Photos by Tim Stephenson, Medical Photographer, Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences