Something Familiar

Second semester of first year is well underway, now that our class has completed three exams. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of a renal nephron or all of the different strains of E. coli that can cause disease in domestic animals. But, some of the best moments of the day come about when a classmate who can talk you through a mind-boggling neurology concept is suddenly stumped when you describe to them the difference between a chestnut and a bay horse. To be perfectly honest, equine terminology can be a little out-there for people without that background. I certainly haven’t yet learned all there is to know about food animal breeds and colors—although that exam is just around the corner!

But, the beauty of veterinary school is that all kinds of students come in with a variety of experiences with different species and specialty interests. Together we guide our peers through the learning curve associated with each topic and ultimately come out better communicators with more empathy about traversing into unknown fields of study.

In addition to looking for moments to help others expand their husbandry skills and general knowledge, I’ve found that we all get an exquisite feeling of affirmation when a professor mentions a clinical scenario with which we’ve had direct experience. Lately for me that has occurred in large animal anatomy lectures centered equine dental issues. In one lecture we discussed the importance of understanding how the sinuses of the skull communicate, or connect, with each other. This is especially important for upper molars, or cheek teeth. I suddenly perked up at the mention of this topic because it was actually a huge concern for one of my mother’s horses that had sustained fractured teeth a few years ago. I remember listening to the clinicians describe the different treatment options depending on how far up the fracture went up the tooth and how this affected the prognosis for my mother’s horse. Fortunately for him, everything turned out fine, minus a few removed cheek teeth.

Fortunately for me, having a direct connection to an important clinical concept has made learning the material more approachable and enjoyable. For this reason it is so important to take breaks from a hectic study schedule–whether you’re a pre-veterinary or a veterinary student–in order to spend a few hours shadowing clinicians on real cases, asking questions, and expanding your practical knowledge. You never know what it might relate to in the future or if your experience might help explain a concept to a friend. Seeking out something familiar in a sea of novel words and ideas certainly makes navigating the waters of veterinary school a little bit easier!