My First Veterinary Conference

Clarissa and HippoFirst semester of the second year of vet school had an interesting start! On the first day of classes I introduced myself to my professors by asking for permission to miss classes to attend a veterinary conference. Since I want to work in small animal and exotics clinical practice after graduation, attending ExoticsCon was a great choice.

Most veterinary conferences welcome veterinary student attendance and some offer significant discounts on student registration prices, and there are also student travel grants available to offset the cost of attendance. ExoticsCon 2015 was the first professional conference I have attended and the first time that the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV), and Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV) all shared their annual conference.

On Sunday, Aug. 30, Rosa, Kathleen, Michelle, and I left for San Antonio from College Station at 3:30 a.m. in order to arrive at the conference to assist in setting up labs. Despite such an early start, I was excited to listen to Dr. Natalie Antinoff and Dr. Sue Chen of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston present Small Mammal Critical Care Techniques, such as placing interosseous catheters to administer medications and performing cranial vena cava venipuncture on ferrets to collect blood samples.

Monday’s program began with several outstanding speakers including a veterinarian astronaut who has been to space four times! My favorite plenary session was an analysis of the references used in reptile formularies. I was surprised to learn that only 37 percent of reptile pharmaceutical doses are based on published peer-reviewed articles. After the morning sessions, I explored the exhibit hall. One useful fact that I learned at the Lafeber booth is that Lafeber offers critical care diets for small mammals. I had previously thought of Lafeber as an avian-focused company, so I enjoyed learning about their products for other exotic animals. I also enjoyed perusing the book selections in the exhibit hall, including books written by speakers at the conference.

Highlights of the lectures and masterclasses on Tuesday and Wednesday included new research on satin disease in guinea pigs and a panel on Encephalozootan cunniculi in rabbits. I have a strong interest in both of these topics, so getting to hear the results of the latest research was very beneficial. After hearing about current research and talking with the speakers, I want to hopefully find a way to get involved with similar research projects next summer.

ExoticsCon also offered opportunities for fun. On Monday night, my Texas A&M University friends and Nicole, a veterinary student from Canada, went to explore the San Antonio Riverwalk. We had a lot of fun introducing Nicole to Tex-Mex food and helping her choose Texas souvenirs. On Tuesday afternoon, all of the conference attendees went behind-the-scenes at the San Antonio Zoo. My favorite part was seeing the hippos up close! We also took advantage of the free rides on the carousel.

ExoticsCon opened my eyes to the many opportunities available in bird, reptile, and small mammal medicine. I am already looking forward to attending other veterinary conferences such as the Texas Veterinary Medical Association conference here in College Station in March and the American Veterinary Medical Association conference next August in San Antonio.