by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ’04 Ph.D.
In the winter of 1995, Susan Bradish (’97 DVM), then a third-year veterinary student, packed her bags and boarded a plane to India carrying a Lonely Planet travel guide and a letter from a veterinary professor she was to meet in Harayana.
“I was on a shoestring budget and did not know one soul in India,” says Bradish, who borrowed $1,000 from a friend to finance the trip. She also received $750 from Heifer International, a nonprofit that works with communities to end world hunger and poverty.
While there, Bradish met with a local veterinarian in Bikaner, a city near the Pakistan border. He took Bradish on farm calls. It was on one of those calls they visited a family whose only water buffalo was in labor. The buffalo died while giving birth. The calf also died.
“I didn’t understand the degree of seriousness at the time,” says Bradish. “That the death of a single animal can mean the difference between living and dying.” The veterinarian explained to Bradish that the loss would likely mean starvation for at least some of the 20 extended family members. “That was a sobering and profound realization,” she says.
But even before her trip to India, Bradish was a seasoned traveler. Raised in a military family, she moved many times, lived in six different states, and spent three years in Germany. “I was forced to learn to adapt and fit in,” she says. “These qualities helped me as an adult when I traveled to new places.” Bradish earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Hawaii and then worked for a few years before applying to WSU’s veterinary school. “I didn’t get in the first time I applied,” says Bradish, who was 33 years old when she started the program at WSU after applying a second time.
Bradish says her maturity and love of travel shaped her interests as a veterinary student. During her second year, she applied and was accepted to the Smith-Kilborne Program, designed to teach veterinary students about foreign animal diseases that could harm U.S. livestock. Through the program, she studied hog cholera at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York State, a foreign animal disease diagnostic lab whose goal is to protect U.S. livestock. “Hog cholera is a horrible disease that spreads quickly,” she says. Once there is an outbreak, says Bradish, the only way to control the disease is to kill all the pigs within a several mile radius.
“An entire population might depend on pigs for their survival,” she says. Pigs are an important source of protein in many communities around the world. “Before the program, I didn’t realize the needs in developing counties.”
Bradish had expected to work overseas after graduation and envisioned a career in a developing country. “I never did it,” she says. She knew that her student loan debt would make it financially impossible for her to work overseas. And while for years it was the call to help people in developing countries that guided her career, the pull to Kentucky to settle down with her high school sweetheart ended up being stronger. She and Jim have been married for 15 years. Bradish retired nearly a decade ago from Sheabel Veterinary Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky where she was chief of staff.
But her desire to help still guided her. Towards the end of her veterinary career she led a Living Waters for the World mission team to the Yucatan peninsula where a village had water that was making them sick. They partnered with members of the community to build a purification system. Although she says that it was not an elaborate system, it has virtually eliminated water borne disease in the community. “It is still working today,” she says.
Today, Bradish works as an artist, but has never forgotten her experiences. She started the Susan Bradish Travel Grant in 2010 because she recognized the need for veterinary expertise in developing nations and she wanted other students to gain an understanding of the daily challenges people face in most of the world. Funds from her grant have helped students travel to places such as Tanzania and Malaysia.
“Life’s greatest adventure is to experience new cultures and live by your wits.” she says. “I wanted to give a travel grant because money is one of the biggest obstacles to having the experience. When you are fortunate in life, you have to give back.”