Becoming a veterinarian is hard work. The path from high school to veterinary school is arduous and has become increasingly competitive. Aspiring future veterinarians often leave high school with a goal in mind and over the next four years, work tirelessly during their undergraduate career to prove to admission committees that they are worthy of a highly coveted spot in their prestigious veterinary school. Once you are accepted into veterinary school, the hard work has really just begun. Now, students are faced with a daily onslaught of copious amounts of highly technical information to master. Students take 21-35 credit hours per semester, and every single one of these classes are challenging. In veterinary school, there is NO such thing as a blow-off class.

To make matters more challenging, students interested in focusing their career on certain animal species or certain medical specialties must compete for a limited number of highly coveted spots in an internship or residency program. Before a program will consider students for their internship/residency program, the student must come visit at the clinic/practice as an extern. What an externship is designed to do, for a curriculum standpoint, is get students out of the classroom and into a variety of clinics so they may observe many styles of practicing veterinary medicine and how each practice is ran.

I am interested in becoming and equine practitioner, which is arguably one of the harder specialties to gain entry to. Top equine programs will accept between one and five interns each year from a pool of several hundred applicants. To even be considered for an internship spot, students must go and visit the practice and complete an externship. At most equine veterinary practices there is a large volume of overnight care to be provided to the patients, thus most facilities will provide modest housing for students to stay on site during their visit.

This past December, I traveled to a large equine medical referral center in Southern California to complete an externship. This is a large equine veterinary practice that is highly respected around the country. The practice has 10 doctors and five interns plus a large support staff. The facilities included a standing MRI, a traditional MRI, hyperbaric chamber, aquatic treadmill, nuclear scintigraphy, ultrasound, full breeding facilities, and a large surgery suite with two recovery rooms. There are facilities to house 80-100 horses with 10 ICU care stalls. Most of the doctors at the practice have advanced training and hold board certification in a variety of specialties.

The caseload at the practice varies from emergency, to surgery, to reproduction, to lameness, to medicine, to preventative care. Visiting the practice was an amazing learning opportunity.  The clinicians were brilliant and taught me so much during my short visit. The current interns were from all around the world, and it was great fun to meet veterinarians from Switzerland, Spain, Australia, and England. I learned an incredible amount from working with them as they performed their daily duties. I also enjoyed my time in beautiful Southern California and found time to visit the beach, a brewery, a winery, and a few nice restaurants.

Overall, the externship experience was incredible. I learn a tremendous amount about equine veterinary medicine, had a lot of fun, and made wonderful new friends. I can’t wait to go on my next externship over Spring Break to Florida!

"Handling the Problem Horse" Wet Lab

In the word of veterinary school, November is one of the busiest times of year. To add to our already-full schedules, a lot of student organizations are hosting wet labs in November. A wet lab is an educational opportunity outside of the classroom for students to gain experience in different areas of veterinary medicine. Often, it will involve a hands-on component, where students are actually able to practice skills, such as ultrasound, suturing, palpation, joint injections.  It’s a chance for students to jump in and get their feet wet—perhaps this is the origin of the name.

This last weekend, the student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners hosted their annual “Handing the Problem Horse” wet lab. I am an officer of the club and the event was being organized by my best friend, so I cleared my weekend to make sure the event went smoothly. For this event, we flew in Dr. Mark Fitch of Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Fitch is a well-respected veterinarian and horseman with 50+ years of experience using natural horsemanship skills to work with his equine patients. Dr. Fitch led a very educational and enjoyable presentation.  Many students were able to actually get into the arena with Dr. Fitch and work with horses one-on-one. I learned a tremendous amount from the event, even though this was my second time attending. It was a long and tiring day, but very fun and extremely rewarding. Some days in veterinary school are better than others, and this was certainly a good day!