Exercising My Knowledge

Paisley with cast
Paisley, being a good sport

One of the many incredible things about veterinary medicine and Texas A&M is that not all learning happens in a classroom! Now that I’m in my third year of veterinary school, I have come to truly appreciate any opportunity to learn beyond sitting in a chair listening to lecture.

As ready as I am to hit the clinic floor come my fourth year in May, I am a little apprehensive to find out exactly how much I have learned. I am thankfully reassured every time I get the chance to exercise my knowledge.

My pet Labrador Retriever, Paisley, also gets to participate from time to time. In exchange for staying still enough for me and my groupmates to practice casting her leg or running an ultrasound, Paisley gets more treats and attention than she could ever ask for. As almost any Lab would, she loves it!

Not every day can be “Bring Your Lab to Lab Day,” though. Thankfully, we have models that also serve as great learning tools.

Laine performing ultrasoundRecently, in Orthopedic Surgery, we practiced fixing fractures on synthetic plastic bones. Although they weren’t exactly like the real thing, it was good practice trying to align the bone and drive a pin through it to stabilize it.

By the end of the lab, I really got to admire how good I had gotten at twisting my wire tight.

I was surprised to find that something I never would have considered doing in normal practice two years ago—fixing a fracture with pins and wires—seemed totally feasible in the next year or two. What I had considered as a “specialty” procedure before, I now consider doing in the future if my patients need it all because I’m more comfortable performing it now.

It’s amazing how much a single lab can change your viewpoint!

One of my favorite hands-on opportunities is one that isn’t even specific to the veterinary college. Disaster Day is an annual disaster simulation that nursing, medicine, public health, and veterinary students all get to participate in.

I had opted not to participate in my previous two years of vet school and having finally taken the chance to try it out, I thoroughly regret not participating sooner!

Laine with her friendsThough the event is a simulation that utilizes actors, it was surprising how much I immersed myself in the moment and learned from working through the various cases that were presented. The actors were so convincing and would show up anywhere from calm and collected to crying to screaming in panic!

What was truly engaging and eye-opening to me was seeing the crossover between the veterinary and human medical fields as zoonotic diseases—diseases passed from animals to people—popped up over the course of the day. After the event, I found myself wrapped up in just replaying some of the day’s excitement over and over again in my head.

Just when I start to really grow tired of all those hours studying, some exciting opportunity pops up for me to practice what I’ve learned.

I’m three years in now and I can confidently say vet school is just exciting as it was on day one—if not more! Here’s looking to fourth year and all the exciting cases ahead of me.

An Unexpected Education

Laine with her dogThe more time I spend in vet school, the more I’m in awe of the passage of time. Perhaps it’s just growing older or the realization that I’ve just experienced my last “summer break,” but it has become more striking than ever that time simply flies by.

Recently, as I stood in my coveralls, watching the farrier demonstrate how to maintain a horse’s hoof, I reflected on the many years of my childhood dreaming of being a veterinarian and working tirelessly toward that goal. All the skills I was once so terrified to do for fear of messing up—injections in large animals, reading blood smears, conducting a physical exam—seem so simple and natural now.

It has only just now truly hit me—I’m over halfway done with vet school! More than that, clinics are right around the corner, and in a matter of weeks I’ll be donning my “big doctor coat,” all white and freshly ironed. It really sends my head spinning to think about, but that isn’t to say I’m not ready.

Summer was an educational adventure in its own way.

As luck would have it, my dog started coughing before I could even return to work at my home clinic. I was only a handful of days into summer and I was already back at the vet school. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing more than a case of kennel cough and the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital had her already improving within the day.

paisleyIt was exciting, though, to speak with a fourth-year student (4VM) who had only just begun her clinical rotations. Knowing I am a vet student, the 4VM even brought me into the discussion when it came time to decide how we wanted to proceed with my dog’s case. Though I didn’t realize it at it the time, it was the first instance of many that summer during which I would realize just how much I’d learned the past two years.

Back in San Antonio, working at my home clinic, I found myself understanding more and more. The veterinarians there showed me radiographs and discussed cases with me, helping me practice my new skills and get into the habit of trying to make educated clinical decisions.

Then, lo and behold, my family cat, Antonio, became a little “quiz” of his own within the month; Antonio began refusing food, and I knew something wasn’t right. I took him to work with me and he had a 106F fever!! Instantly, we went about trying to fix the issue.

The next two weeks were an absolute roller coaster! He got better briefly…and then worse. Having turned down every avenue, we, again, turned to the Small Animal Hospital, this time to consult with an internal medicine specialist. And, yet again, I was invited to listen in on the conversation as we discussed potential diagnostics and treatments. Once more I found myself able to keep up with the conversation and even made the final decision on how to treat my cat. Finally, the fever cleared Antonio the Catand Antonio’s appetite returned. As stressful as the situation had been, it was so rewarding to reach that happy ending. Through Antonio’s illness, I learned that even if I didn’t know all the answers, I was developing valuable skills as a veterinarian and could even think through difficult cases I never would have imagined being able to before.

Looking back on how quickly the first half of vet school has flown by, I can confidently say I’ve loved every second of it—at least, almost every second. That’s including the nights poring over textbooks and the minutes before a big test, fidgeting anxiously as I mentally reviewed every little detail that could possibly be on it.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Not once have I doubted the path I’m on, and every day I only become more certain of it. I know just on the horizon awaits uncertainty and new challenges, but I’m excited. I’m ready for it.

Clinics, here I come!

Forward Thinking

I am now almost halfway through veterinary school, and I can’t help but be blown away. Just the other day, I stood talking with my friend at the dog park while our two pets played. The topic came up of our mutual friend being accepted into the incoming class of veterinary students. My friend mentioned how excited she is to apply next year and how crazy it would be if she got in: she would be in the first year, our mutual friend in the second, my roommate in the third, and me in my fourth year. I agreed, not fully processing the concept at the time.

Helping out in the CVM Marketplace, a fourth-year student came in to purchase some College of Veterinary Medicine merchandise. As we casually conversed while she checked out, I noticed the tears in her eyes. “I just finished my last rotation at the vet school,” she informed me; afterward, she said, she sat in her car for 30 minutes processing that fact. I couldn’t imagine the emotional overload she must have felt. I, myself, will have had 20 years of schooling, in total, by the time I graduate.

After that conversation, it hit me—this is the top of the hill. All semester I have joked about the “Wednesday of vet school,” as I like to refer to it. You work so hard and climb so high just to realize it’s all downhill from there. Two years is still a lot of time, but for the first time since entering vet school, it feels within grasp. I’ve finally begun to feel like a doctor this semester, and it has both amazed and terrified me at the same time. Having just finished anesthesia before Spring Break and jumping straight into the “Principals of Surgery” this week, it’s amazing to think of how school has just flown by. Before I know it, I’ll be picking my third-year electives and my White Coat Ceremony will be a thing of the past.

My Spring Break really seemed to summarize these feeling for me. My family and I returned to my grandparent’s coastal property to hang up pictures and clean up the place after all of the construction completed post-Hurricane Harvey. Driving down, my mother remarked about how all of the telephone poles had been knocked down the first time they had driven the route, and I noticed all of the new streetwork that had been done. It’s an odd feeling, really, how a place can look so foreign and familiar at the same time.

Despite what happens and the obstacles that arise, life keeps moving on and people adapt. I find it hard, sometimes, to look forward instead of back, but it’s nice to see how far things have come. Come two years, there will a completely new chapter of my life that begins. Though I’m hesitant to turn the page, I’m excited to see what’s in store. With every uphill battle comes the other side, and I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

Filling a Puppy-Sized Hole in my Heart

Laine and her dog Karesen
Laine, before her undergraduate graduation, and Karsen, the service dog she raised, who graduated to become a diabtic-alert companion for a woman in Arizona.

It’s funny, the things you look forward to in life as time goes on and things change. Looking forward to the break has always been a constant in my life and now that I’m nearing the midpoint of my second year in vet school, I only have two winters and one summer left to cherish—what a thought!

I’m looking forward to going home and visiting my family, of course, but I’m also excited to go back and work for the veterinary clinic I’ve been helping at since I was 16 years old. They’ve always been a second family to me and I’ve never failed to learn something from the staff there as I practice my new knowledge. It’s never really work when you’re with people you love, doing what you love.

That isn’t the only reason I’m excited to return home this winter, though!

As an undergraduate student, I raised a service dog that is now in Arizona doing diabetic alert for her forever partner. It’s been so fulfilling knowing I’ve made a difference in someone’s life, but there’s been a hole in my heart where a lovable dog once was and for the continual work that kept me ever-busy.

After watching my friends’ dogs recently, I’ve noticed this hole growing even larger. Most recently, I puppy-sat my friend’s two dogs while one of them was recovering from back surgery, performed at none other than the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital. All the extra time I spent taking him out to the bathroom in a sling and medicating him every 12 hours made me prouder of my future profession and the magic it can do. Already he’s gaining mobility back in his hind feet and beginning to wag his tail again.

This experience has also served to remind me just how much I miss having my own dog to care for regularly. So, finally, I decided to fill this hole.

This break I will be picking up the little sister of the service dog I raised to keep as my own pet. I cannot express how I excited I am! I hope to continue working for the community through dogs by either training her for search and rescue or therapy work. I know that with my new best friend, I’ll be able to change even more lives… but I have to make it through the slipper-chewing and the potty-training first, all over again. Wish me luck!

Feeling Certainty in Second Year

Laine T.Howdy! My name is Laine and I am a second-year veterinary student and a brand new ambassador! My interests lie in small-animal medicine, focusing on dogs and cats. I am a strong canine enthusiast and absolutely love dog training and pet photography. I have wanted to be a veterinarian since fifth grade and have spent much of my time after my 16th birthday either volunteering or working at a vet clinic. Now in my second year of veterinary classes, I am more excited than ever to pursue my dream as the countdown continues until I receive my doctorate of veterinary medicine—only 33 months left!

I had assumed my second year of vet school would start just like my first one, with the added luxury of more time to study and less time in class. While I was not necessarily mistaken—the coursework is still rigorous, the expectations are still high, and the opportunities are still endless—the beginning of my second year was radically different from my first. For starters, my attitude has changed drastically. After having made it through my first year, I am now more confident in myself and eager to help the incoming first-year students as they learn how to adapt to the change in course load and the shift in lifestyle that comes with entering the veterinary curriculum. The sense of a vet school “family” has become stronger in me as I reach out to those who seem unsure so that I can offer my help and experience in any way that I can. We each worked so hard to enter this program and are now in it together. We also are future colleagues who treat each other as equals and help those in need. If there is anything I wish to accomplish this year, it is passing on this feeling of belonging to the first-year students.

Less subtle a change than my attitude, however, was the nationwide eclipse on our very first day of class; yet, it drove home the same idea. It was heartwarming to watch students and faculty gather in the courtyard to set up scopes and cameras to view the eclipse with their special glasses. Everyone had something in common as they struck up conversations all day, whether they were a longtime friend or stranger.

Then, natural disaster struck that Friday as Hurricane Harvey commanded the news. Though undeniably devastating, it has been incredible seeing the Aggie core value of “Selfless Service” in action for the entire past week. The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ own Veterinary Emergency Team was deployed along the coast to offer medical support to animals in need. Homes have been opened up to anyone facing floodwater threats in Houston. Kayaks were bought to assist in rescuing those trapped, and countless fundraisers and relief efforts are constantly being made. In this trying time, I am proud to call myself a Texan and an Aggie.

Last year I entered vet school excited, but apprehensive and unsure. This year I know without a shadow of a doubt that I belong here and I am not in this alone. It’s not just a school; it’s a community.