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Dr. David Turoff

A request from a friend in the Peace Corps to do his part to improve conditions in less fortunate parts of the world started California practi- tioner Dr. David Turoff on a nearly two-decade journey of improving the lives of working equids in underde- veloped regions. 

His ongoing leadership and selfless dedication to animals that are among the most in need of veterinary care is the impetus behind Dr. Turoff’s recognition as the February Turoffhonoree of the AAEP’s Good Works for Horses Campaign. 

Searching for an opportunity to “check the box” on his friend’s request, Dr. Turoff in 2001 discovered a Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) program administer- ing volunteer veterinary care to Guatemala’s working horses, donkeys and mules—animals whose health and capacity to work are critical to families’ sustenance in the region. 

What he expected to be a one-time expedition snowballed into a return trip six months later, followed by an opportunity from RAVS to start a similar trip to northern Peru that would continue for seven years before moving to a different part of the country.

When the Equitarian Initiative became an independent entity in 2010, Dr. Turoff joined the board of directors and has contributed significantly to the growth and direction of the nonprofit that prepares volunteer vet- erinarians to deliver health care to working equids and education to their caretakers to create sustainable change. He has mentored other veteri- narians who have gone on to lead their own projects, and he has whole- heartedly embraced a core value of the initiative: to teach best practices to Central American veterinary students so that one day they’ll be able to do much of this work on their own.

He invites students from Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala to join him on Equitarian trips, often at his own expense, to expand their clinical skills and to create cross-border friendships that will eventually help solve regional concerns, such as Equine Infectious Anemia, that require cooperation among nations. He also initiates frequent case consultations with Central American veterinarians after they graduate and hosts veterinary students from the region as externs at his three-doctor ambulatory practice in Placerville, Calif. 

At the peak of his involvement, Dr. Turoff led three Equitarian trips each year—to Peru, Guatemala and Nicaragua—and participated in three others, encompassing 19 weeks. Now approaching 70, he has scaled back to 15 weeks annually while organizing only the Guatemala trip. 

In seeking other ways to continue contributing to the welfare of working equids, Dr. Turoff earned accreditation to teach English as a second language and has taught English to several Central American veterinary students who have visited his practice. Upon his retirement, Dr. Turoff intends to take month-long trips to the region to teach English to Central American veterinary students so they can pursue opportunities to study and gain valuable veterinary experience in the United States.

As one who has dedicated much of his professional life to Equitarian efforts, Dr. Turoff would be thrilled if such work could develop into a sus- tainable career option. 

“I would like for international equine welfare work to be a career path for veterinarians from the developed world,” he said. “I don’t know how realistic that is—it depends a lot on funding—but that would be great if someone could actually do this sort of work as a primary career.”