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So This is What the “Real” World is Like

What a beautiful day!  It is a balmy 42 degrees outside with a humidity somewhere around 80%, at least when it is not actually raining.  I haven't seen the sun all day, and I don't expect to anytime soon.  What a beautiful Sunday!  (I promise, I am not being facetious.)  I have my feet propped up, switching between the NFL playoffs and college basketball.  I just got back from watching a movie with my wife.  How could this day be any better!?  I could really get used to this, but today is the last day of Christmas break.

These past few weeks have been awesome!  I was able to catch up on some of my non-school work that had been shoved aside.  I have filled out applications, returned emails, worked on my extra-curricular activities, etc.  Most importantly, I have focused on being a husband for a couple of weeks.  I got to shorten my honey-do list, fix up the apartment, and make dinner.  I love to cook, and I enjoy giving Lauren a break from the daily home grind.  Most guys would probably complain, but hey, doing laundry and running errands are a huge improvement on studying!

Breaks are a very interesting time in vet school.  All of us need a break to recharge, but we also want to take advantage of the time to expand our horizons.  Some of the best "learning" in school actually occurs far from the halls of the vet school.  During these treasured weeks, vet students take a variety of approaches to gain some hands-on experiences.  Many vet students volunteer at clinics near their home.  Some are even lucky enough to find paid internships.  For me, I have a distinct advantage.  I get to play with horses at my parents' house, and my father-in-law is a feline-only practitioner.  So during the holidays, Lauren and I spend time with the family, and I get some clinic experience all at the same time.  This most recent trip included a pair of Bengal cats and a white German Shepard.  (Yes, he is cat-only, but he sees the occasional dog.  Shhhh, don't tell anyone!)  I got to assist in several surgeries, drain 2 lbs. of fluid out of the abdominal cavity of a cat with cancer, and witness the humane euthanasia of a couple of very sick patients.

More important than the hands-on experience were the soft skills that I learned while watching my father-in-law.  He graduated vet school and worked in a predominantly equine practice and then switched to a feline-only practice after about 15 years.  He has seen it all.  I watched him handle a plethora of situations from the family with their first cat to discussing euthanasia with another.  The way he handled each situation was a true inspiration to me.  I learned that communicating with clients is much more important and much more difficult than making a diagnosis and administering treatment.  Communication is truly the art of practice.

Vet students have always been taught the science and techniques of veterinary medicine.  Schools and the industry identified that graduates were deficient in some of these soft skills.  However, credit needs to be given to veterinary schools for the added emphasis on communication and business training.  From the first week of school, professors and guests have discussed communication techniques.  We have had mock patient exams with interns and older students playing clients so we can practice our communication skills.  We even had one day where physiology was more like theater class with groups of students performing different client interactions.  Some of the most memorable moments of vet school came out of that day.  Just ask my friend and classmate Judd.  I have a feeling that he will be memorialized on a t-shirt before our class graduates.

This is what they didn't tell me about vet school.  They didn't tell me that my communication, and acting, skills would be tested and sharpened.  They didn't tell me how much I would learn outside of class during breaks.  They also didn't say how much fun it would be!  I guess that is why I am excited to start school on Monday even with 23 hours of class waiting for me!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tragedy that occurred on Saturday in Tucson, AZ.  Several people were injured and killed when a gunman attacked an event for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Representative Giffords was among the critically injured.  You may be wondering why I would mention Ms. Giffords in a blog about vet school.  The two seem to be completely unconnected.  This morning, I was reminded of just how flat our world has become.  In my inbox was an email asking if an AVMA board member I liaison with wanted to send a card to Rep. Giffords.  The email stated she is a long time supporter of veterinary medicine.  I realized, again, that our world is very small.  Something I will make a point to remember as I keep all of the victims in my thoughts and prayers.