Externships & Grants 2016

Past Externship Recipients
2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010

Colorado State University

We decided on the April date in November of last year… back then the thinking was it would be a lovely spring day on the front range of Colorado just north of Wellington and right at CSU’s back door.  Karen Kinyon has llamas and alpacas a wonderful fiber studio that can double as a classroom and the Rocky Mountain Lama Association was completely behind the whole idea!  With the help of Mid Atlantic Alpaca Association we would add a couple of sessions for veterinary professionals on Medical Handling Techniques.  Christine Russell, the president of the Small Ruminant Club would pass the word and organize the veterinary event. 

The phone calls and emails about the “weather event” started as I was packing to go.  FEET of snow was predicted but it was WAY too late to think seriously of cancelling.  I would need to be the camelid version of the post office…through rain and hail and sleet and dark of night I complete my appointed clinics!  The weather was bad but not so bad at the venue and with the support of some hot chocolate the veterinary students were happy to deal with a bit of snow. Karen’s barn is a winter proof affair and we split our time between the classroom and the barn. On Friday and Saturday evenings we devoured some of the best pizza I have ever had and the students were thrilled to have a class on handling camelids. We covered catching haltering, and behavior and these seven brilliant young women learned all kinds of antecedent arrangements to make everything from toenail trimming to giving injections easier for both the animal and the veterinarian.   We already have a plan for the next time I am back in Colorado! 

My name is Alison Bush and I am a third-year veterinary student at Colorado State University. This past summer (2016), I attended the North American Camelid Studies Program with The Nuñoa Project, as well as joined the project on their bi-annual trip to Peru.

The North American Camelid Studies Program was a great opportunity to learn more about camelid medicine and various practical techniques necessary for camelid herd health. Though we learn some information about alpacas and llamas in veterinary school, we do not learn enough to be confident in our camelid examinations. Dr. Steven Purdy was a great mentor for that week. Hearing stories from his career about different cases, what’s worked what hasn’t worked, and his experience working with these animals was more beneficial than a lecture by a professor who has limited experience working with these animals. In addition, the hands-on portion of the course was extremely beneficial. I’m glad I decided to take this course this summer, and I feel more confident working with alpacas and llamas because of it.

The trip with Dr. Purdy and The Nuñoa Project to Peru was the most humbling experience of my life. We worked with five alpaca herding communities near Pucara. It was interesting to see the condition of the alpacas and the hardships both the animals and farmers go through in the Alit Plano. It was an honor to join The Nuñoa Project to help to improve these herds and progress the alpaca industry in Peru. The work we did was extremely meaningful, and I went to bed each night feeling like I made a difference in the farmers’ lives. In addition, the farmers were very appreciative of our work and glad we were there to help them. The highlight of this trip was chatting with the farmers after our work. They’d confide in us on what problems they had during the previous breeding season, and we would work together to identify a solution. This trip was extremely rewarding, and I was so fortunate to have experienced this opportunity.

In addition, The Nuñoa Project worked with Llama Pack Project in Urubamba, and we evaluated the llamas in the communities that are involved in this project. The llamas had never seen a veterinarian before, so most importantly our work started to build trust between the farmers, Alejandra & Coqui, and veterinarians. It was a huge accomplishment for both projects and I am so glad I was a part of it. We even taught a farmer how to halter train his llama. I’ve never seen a bigger smile, he was very excited to take one with him to start training the rest of the herd in preparation for their llama treks.

Thank you to Dr. Purdy and The Nuñoa Project for giving me the opportunity to go on this trip and gain such a wonderful experience. I learned a lot during it and I am excited for my future career in international livestock medicine.

Alison Bush
6 September 2016

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota

On behalf of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Ruminant and Camelid Club (SRCC) and Dr. Anna Firshman, I would like extend a sincere thank you to you and the Mid America Alpaca Foundation for your generous support and funding of our Camelid Medicine Lunch event on Friday, March 25.

We have heard outstanding feedback from attendees and the overall attendance at this meeting by faculty, staff and veterinary students proved to be a top event for our Club. The guest speaker, Dr. Erica McKenzie, associate professor of large animal internal medicine at Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine presented on the topic of “Causes of Recumbency in Camelids.” Her presentation was very practical and thorough as she discussed cardiac, neurologic and metabolic diseases as well as the current treatment options. She also discussed common clinical signs of these diseases and how to best manage them in both a hospital and field setting. It was very much evident that Dr. McKenzie has a true passion for these animals and her knowledge shined through the presentation. It was a great learning opportunity for all who attended and we have you and the foundation to thank for making it possible.

With the work done by SRCC, we have expanded camelid-related opportunities such as, shearing events, camelid handling wet-labs that encourage students to learn and practice body conditioning scoring, proper injection sites, nutrition, toe nail trimming and much more. As a result, we have well over 50% of our club members interested in pursuing camelid medicine as it pertains to mixed animal private practice or as a part of their large animal studies. Therefore, we continue to work on supporting the mission of the Mid America Alpaca Foundation by exposing more students to these animals and helping them to develop confidence in working with alpacas and llamas after graduation.

I enjoyed working with you in making this event possible and we look forward to collaborating with you and the foundation in the future.

Best regards,
Kirstyn M. Heino
University of Minnesota
College of Veterinary Medicine
SRCC President
DVM Candidate, Class of 2017


This has been the summer of camelids and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more or learned as much as I did without the help of Dr. Purdy and the Nuñoa Project. My name is Amanda Cormier and I am entering my third year of veterinary school at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. I was first exposed to camelids during my first year at vet school through our Small Ruminant and Camelid Club. I figured out very quickly that I want to spend my life working with camelids.

Unfortunately our curriculum only includes about two lectures a semester on camelids, so that is where Dr. Purdy comes in. My summer started with a trip to Massachusetts to take the North American Camelid Studies Program. Through this class I not only learned common practices in camelid medicine, but I also learned how to handle and work with Dr. Purdy’s herd of alpacas. Each day we would have a lecture and then go to Dr. Purdy’s farm to implement what he taught us. This included a lot more hands on work than I would have gotten even if I did learn about camelids in school. I now feel much more comfortable handling and treating common ailments.

A month later, the summer got even better with a trip to Peru. In Peru we worked with both llamas and alpacas doing ultrasound pregnancy exams, male reproductive exams, cleaning eyes, and treating mange. On top of that, we worked closely with the farmers to help improve their herds in order to make life better for them. Through Gerardo, the incredible Peruvian vet who worked with us and translated everything, we learned about the culture and lifestyle of the farmers and then worked every day to assist them. Just like the saying “If you give a man a fish he eats for a day, if you teach a man to fish he eats for a life time”, Nuñoa Project is in it for the long haul.

Improving breeding stock and educating the public takes time and I feel privileged to have been able to help in a small piece of that goal. I’m not quite ready to go out into practice, after all I still have two more years of school, but thanks to Dr. Purdy I am that much closer to reaching that goal. I hope that after I become a world-renowned camelid veterinarian (ok that might be a stretch, but at least happily treating camelids in my area), I will have the opportunity to return to Peru with the Nuñoa Project. When I do that, I can’t wait to see how much the herds have improved in fiber quality and body condition and I will be so proud of this incredible organization for making that happen.

Amanda Cormier

I will be using this scholarship to complete an externship with Dr. Mike Zager in Ellijay, Georgia. There I will learn a lot of valuable skills not only in camelid medicine, but also in camelid handling and camelid operations by getting to know the producers. The scholarship will help me with travel expenses, lodging, and supplies I will need for the externship.  I would also like to use the scholarship to expand my library on camelid textbooks so that I can better prepare myself for the externship and my future career as a camelid veterinarian. Thank you so much for your generosity.

-Mo Kelly
UGA CVM c/o 2017
LA Surgery Tech
LA Treatment Crew
President: Theriogenology Club

University of Illinois
University of Illinois

I want to thank you for your generous financial support and tell you a little bit more about myself. I am interested in mixed animal medicine with a focus on camelids and small ruminants. Many of my clinical rotations during my fourth year of veterinary school will involve me traveling to areas where I can gain experience in these fields. Specifically, I will be traveling to WI, OR, and Peru during my clinical year. I have the opportunity during this time to learn about camelids from Dr. Chris Cebra of Oregon State and Dr. Purdy of the Nuñoa Project, both of whom are leaders in the field of camelid medicine. I will be using the scholarship funds to help pay for my travels. I am excited to meet new students and veterinarians around the world that share the same love for camelids as me. I do not know what my future holds, but I am excited to become a part of a profession that has such kind and motivated individuals. My hope is to positively impact patients and clients with my care and medical knowledge, especially in the alpaca world.

Oklahoma State University


Here is a little write-up of my experience at the Kansas City Zoo.

I had an amazing time at my externship at the world famous Kansas City Zoo and I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity your generous organization has afforded me. There is one particular case while I was at the Kansas City Zoo that was very interesting and unique. It involves a 23-year-old female intact llama diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. She was diagnosed in 2015 after the keepers noted her star gazing and staring off into space with less interest in her feed. The diagnosis was made based on clinical signs (dull mentation, lethargy), history, and biochemical values. She had elevated blood ammonia levels compared to her fellow conspecifics, and had abnormal liver values. She was started on the medication lactulose to prevent the production of ammonia-producing bacteria in the GIT and milk thistle to help protect the liver from toxins. The keepers noticed after her treatment was started she started exhibiting normal behavior and regained her appetite. I thought this case was very fascinating because there is a dearth of research regarding this disease as well as liver disease in llamas in general.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity!

Alexandra Portanova

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota

My name is Amanda Cormier and I am a second year veterinary student at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. My first experience with camelids was through the Small Ruminant and Camelid Club in October of my first semester of veterinary school. I volunteered to help shear some Suri crias at a nearby farm. On the farm I was greeted by a guard llama named Morgan and introduced to some rather sassy crias that were protesting shearing. It may not sound like much, but through the compassion the producers showed their animals and the interesting personalities of each animal I became hooked. After that, I took every opportunity I could to spend more time with camelids and now I can no longer imagine my future career without them. In order to obtain even more experience and veterinary knowledge I plan to use the scholarship provided by the Mid American Alpaca Foundation to attend the North American Camelid Studies Program in June and to go with the Nuñoa Project to Peru in July to work with camelids there (http://www.nunoaproject.org). I hope to use these experiences in order to reach my goal of becoming a mixed animal practitioner with a camelid focus.

University of Illinois
University of Illinois

I feel that I am a good candidate for this scholarship because I have maintained a high GPA throughout veterinary school, I am active in campus clubs and community outreach, I am very interested in pursuing camelid medicine, and I have a deep financial need.

First, I have been the Vice President of the Christian Veterinary Missions Fellowship for two years. I lead weekly Bible studies and organize the annual mission trips to Honduras and Haiti to provide free veterinary care for the animals in those impoverished countries. I also organize "Operation Christmas Child," which collects donations, shops for items, and puts together Christmas packages to ship oversees to children each Christmas. Each year I run the VetMed Open House Booth where we have a baked goods sale and a raffle to raise money for the mission trips.

I am also a member of the Business Management Club, and I am currently working towards the Business Certification Program. I am a member of the Veterinary Student Outreach Program, where I volunteer with community events to teach children about veterinary careers and caring for animals. I am also an active member in the Equine, Bovine, and Swine Practitioners' Assocations. I have worked hard to maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA throughout all semesters of veterinary school. I also work for Lafeber as the student representative, collecting orders for bird food from the students.

In the summers and during clinical year, I have traveled to different veterinary clinics to gain a variety of experiences. I worked with a dairy veterinarian for four weeks. I have also worked with mixed practices doing small ruminant, camelid, and exotic animal medicine. I completed a two week externship in camelid medicine, where I learned to treat failure of passive transfer in crias, assist with dystocias, treat meningeal worm infections and neurologic animals, and fecal exams and parasite control. I want to strive towards being a competent and honest veterinarian, one that my clients and patients can count on.

For my future career goals, I would like to work in mixed animal practice and large animal medicine for several years, and gain as much experience as possible. I would then like to purchase a thriving veterinary practice, preferrably a rural mixed animal practice with 5-8 doctors. I also plan to volunteer for low-cost spay, neuter, and vaccination clinics to support my local community.

Finally, I have a very deep financial need. I am solely responsible for all of my undergraduate and graduate educational expenses, as well as living expenses. Thank you for this scholarship opportunity.

Robyn Smith

Iowa State University
Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

My name is Jessica Kassen and I am a 4th year veterinary student at Iowa State University. I am from Rock City, Illinois, which is a small town in the northwestern part of the state. I grew up on a farm where my parents allowed us to have a menagerie of animals, which is where I acquired my interest in mixed animal medicine. I love the variety of people and animals that mixed animal work provides and look forward to never being bored with my work. Outside of veterinary medicine, I love to bake, garden, and hike with my husband and our dog. We hope to stay in the Midwest after graduation and settle down with our own little place out in the country.


Kansas State University
Kansas State University

My name is Paula Patton and I am a fourth year veterinary student at Kansas State. My interest in camelids stems from my experience working with alpacas with a mixed animal practitioner in upstate New York.  Since then I’ve taken every opportunity possible to keep working with llamas and alpacas. I was the president of the Kansas State Camelid Medicine Club from 2013-2015. As president, I worked hard to inspire interest in camelids and encourage students going into mixed animal practice to learn more about nontraditional species.

Thanks to the MAAF scholarship, this fall I will be traveling to Corvallis, Oregon to attend the Camelid Medicine and Surgery elective course taught by Dr. Chris Cebra. I am so excited and grateful for this opportunity, I know the information learned from this externship will help better serve my future camelid clients.

Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University

I am planning on going to the Kansas City Zoo for a 6 week preceptorship, and I will be spending 2 weeks of this with alpacas and camels. I am very excited to spend time here. This will be next year (2/8-3/20). 

University of Georgia
University of Georgia

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota

My name is Kirstyn Heino, and I am a 3rd year veterinary medicine student at the University of Minnesota. My interest in camelid medicine stems from an internship I participated in while I was a junior in college. I greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to work with alpacas and llamas and learning about the growing need for camelid veterinarians. This sparked my desire to learn all that I can about these animals. As a veterinary student I have participated in different clinical and leadership opportunities to learn more about these animals and to develop my skill set.

With the generous scholarship offer by the Mid America Alpaca Foundation, I had the privilege of participating in the North American Camelid Studies Program in Amherst, MA directed by Dr. Stephen Purdy. I had the opportunity to learn and apply concepts in camelid reproduction, ultrasound, body condition scoring, neonatal care, nutrition, parasite control and much more. I also worked with their teaching herd doing blood draws, vaccinations and performing castrations at nearby alpaca farms.

I believe that all of the skills and knowledge I learned from this course will greatly assist me as I continue to explore this area of veterinary medicine. Most importantly, I would like to use these skills to contribute to the mixed-animal practice I hope to join after graduation. I am excited to continue learning more about these animals as I progress in the veterinary curriculum at the University of Minnesota. Thank you to the Mid America Alpaca Foundation for providing students, like me, the opportunity to expand and explore their career goals by taking part in this amazing opportunity. Your generous scholarship offer is very much appreciated!

Texas A&M
Texas A&M

My name is Katherine Hall and I am a second year vet student at Texas A&M University. My primary interests are cats and alpacas. My first introduction to alpaca was a tour of the Bluebonnet Hills Alpaca Ranch and spinning lessons organized by the knitting club at A&M, Aggie Knitting, Crafting, and More. Those lessons led to a job working at a different alpaca ranch, Royal Oaks Alpacas, where my interest in alpaca grew as I got to know the alpaca at the ranch. After graduation I would like to go into private practice and, in an ideal world, practice primarily on small animals and small ruminants.

Again, thank you for your patience and the opportunity,
Katherine Hall

University of Missouri
University of Missouri

My name is Stephanie Chlebowski and I am currently a third year student at the University of Missouri. My interest in camelids began while working with llamas as part of my undergraduate education and has only grown with my experiences in veterinary school. This spring, I was able to attend the 2015 MAPACA Jubilee, one of the largest alpaca shows in the country. Here, I participated in Marty McGee Bennett’s CAMELIDynamics workshop, which focused on low-stress handling and training techniques of alpacas and llamas. This workshop has given me new handling skills that I will be able to use to minimize the stress of veterinary procedures in my future patients. I am also excited to share what I have learned with future clients so that they can decrease stress during routine handling procedures as well. While at the Jubilee, I was able to learn more about the alpaca industry, such as how to assess fleece quality, owners’ most common veterinary concerns, and the importance of the client-veterinarian relationship. Overall, this experience has helped to deepen my understanding of the goals and current concerns of the alpaca industry and has equipped me with new skills I can incorporate as a practicing veterinarian.

I wanted to thank the Mid America Alpaca Foundation for this generous scholarship, which has covered the cost of my travels and the workshop. I very much appreciate this opportunity!

Thank You,

Stephanie Chlebowski
Class of 2016
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Missouri

University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Tennessee

This past July, I used the generous financial support from the Mid-American Alpaca Foundation to assist with expenses associated with traveling to Peru. I worked with Dr. Steve Purdy and his team of veterinarians and students in Pucará, located in the Puno department five hours southeast of Cusco.

Over the period of a week and a half, we traveled to many different communities in the Peruvian highlands. We met with farmers and their families and discussed concerns and goals for their herds. This was an extremely hands-on experience and the four students were immediately taught how to ultrasound trans-abdominally, body condition score, assess fiber quality, draw blood, evaluate crias, deworm, and assess possible new reproductive males. I previously had very little experience ultrasounding but by the end of the first day my confidence had grown and I was diagnosing pregnant or open animals in less than twenty seconds. One of the most rewarding moments of the trip was when a farmer’s son leaned over my shoulder to see the screen of the ultrasound machine. I was thankful for my years of Spanish classes and traveling; I pointed to the screen and explained to the boy how the images told me if his animal was pregnant or not. Eventually the child picked it up and was identifying if the animal was preñada (pregnant) or vacia (open).

One of the organization’s main goals is education; Dr. Purdy aims to improve the farmers’ skills and techniques so that they are better able to identify problems like unthrifty animals or unfit males. Leaving a community at the end of a day and seeing the family body condition scoring their animals the way we taught them is a truly rewarding experience.

Working with hundreds of alpacas at 12-14,000 feet in the Andean sun was hysically and mentally challenging but also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Hiking up a mountain to ultrasound one hundred alpacas was a beautiful adventure and I am thankful to have had the chance to do something like this.

Before this trip I had very little experience working with camelids but now cannot imagine a career without them. Without the support from the Mid-America Alpaca Foundation this trip would not have been possible and I would not have developed a passion for camelid medicine.

I hope to return to Peru in a few years as a veterinarian and continue working with the Nuñoa Project.

Emma Schaffel
University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2017
Mid-American Alpaca Foundation Student Externship Scholarship
July, 2015
Nuñoa Project
Pucará, Peru

Mississippi State University

My name is Jennie Kleinberger and I am a 4th year veterinary student at Mississippi State. I first fell in love with camelids when I was involved with the Camelid Studies Program as an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I have experience working on camelid farms in the Northeast and have also been involved in the North American Alpaca Show. As a second year veterinary student I was the president of the Small Ruminant, Swine, and Poultry club. I am currently a member of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners and after graduation I plan on doing large animal ambulatory work with a special interest in camelid medicine and surgery.

University of Pennsylvania

My name is Klaudia Polak and I am currently a 4th year vet student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. My first introduction to alpacas was visiting a farm next to my aunt’s home every time we took trips to Vermont. Their curious personality and uniqueness intrigued me, and I also saw how devoted people were to their alpacas. I aspire to work in a mixed animal practice with a focus on small ruminants and camelids. As a strong proponent of the advancement of veterinary medicine, I am interested in contributing to the knowledge of camelid medicine in any way that I can – especially since there is a limited number of reliable sources of information available to both veterinarians and owners.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be taking Dr. Cebra's Camelid Medicine & Surgery clinical rotation and course at Oregon State and am excited to bring (and apply) valuable information on diagnosing and treating these special animals back to the east coast. During this course we have gained an incredible amount of experience with medical procedures in both alpacas and llamas. From safely drawing blood and inserting jugular catheters to performing castration surgeries, we have gained invaluable skills and also knowledge from the information-packed lectures during these two weeks.

We only have a couple of lectures on camelids throughout our 4 years at Penn Vet and no teaching animals, therefore our graduates tend to have very limited camelid experience and medical knowledge. I find this opportunity to be one-of-a-kind and an amazing learning experience! Receiving a grant from the MAAF would be a tremendous help to pay off the travel costs to fly to Oregon from Philadelphia, housing, and materials/supplies for this externship.

University of Wisconsin

My name is Maren Raab and I am a fourth year veterinary student at the University of Wisconsin. My interest in camelids began after a summer job shearing llamas during my undergraduate education. Since then, I have pursued camelid medicine through coursework across the country, from Massachusetts to Oregon, and forged connections with camelid owners and AASRP vets closer to home. I served as president of UW's Small Ruminant Club and was instrumental in establishing it as its own club, rather than a subgroup of Production Medicine Club, and including many more camelid experiences in what was previously a mainly sheep and goat group. Talking to many in the alpaca community has convinced me that there is a role to be filled by a veterinarian dedicated to improving their care, and that I want to make doing so the core of my career here in the Great Lakes region. Traveling to Peru, the birthplace of camelid husbandry would be an incomparable experience in this regard. Camelid medicine in Wisconsin would not exist without an international base, and it’s thrilling to realize just how much can be exchanged in both directions. The Peruvian farmers have the knowledge that only comes with generations of trial, error, and refinement, while we have modern technologies like ultrasound that can transform the understanding of traditional South American farmers by giving them a non-invasive glimpse inside their animals. I’m inspired by the prospect of helping both of these groups to have the healthiest, happiest, and most productive animals possible, and the most intuitive way to do that, I believe, is to bring the best parts of both worlds together.

Colorado State University

My trip to Oregon State University to work with Dr. Chris Cebra was unforgettable and extremely beneficial. We don't get anywhere near the degree of information about camelids nor the hands on experience where I attend veterinary school. We had lectures regarding important topics such as anesthesia, antibiotics and fluid therapy, surgical procedures, radiology, clinical medicine and reproduction. We also had multiple hands learning opportunities, which included microscope work to identify parasites, conducting breeding soundness exams, a castration lab, how to position for radiographs and how to ultrasound for pregnancies. We also had lots of practice doing physical exams as well as drawing blood, placing jugular catheters and even doing CSF taps! I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in camelid medicine because I don't think you can find such a well-rounded, hands on experience anywhere else. Thank you to the Mid America Alpaca Foundation for sponsoring my trip - I would not have been able to attend without it!

Kayla Porcelli





© 2006-2014. All Rights Reserved. Site Maintained by Necessaria Marketing LLC