What’s in an Externship?

Mary Horse Externship
Mary Margaret takes a look into the eye of a horse that was being examined for a complicated ocular disease during her second summer externship.

What does a veterinary student do during their limited summer breaks? Anything that looks a lot like school without actually being more school, of course.

I chose to work in a few hospitals and also extern in a few hospitals. What’s an externship? Well, it’s two or more weeks of total immersion into a practice, which allows students to try and figure out if that practice or career path will be a good option for them. All fourth-year students at A&M complete somewhere between two and 12 weeks of externships at clinics all over the state and, sometimes, the world. I picked three different equine hospitals across the state and spent a few weeks this summer trying to figure out if being a horse vet is a good idea.

The first externship was still technically during breeding season and, as with most things involving babies, very little sleep was had. Every mare that came into the hospital was outfitted with an alert system so that the doctors and interns would know when she was starting to give birth. The process is pretty quick in normal horses, so when that alarm went off, it was “throw your boots on and run to the barn” and “hope you make it in time in case anything goes wrong.” The first foal delivery I was involved in decided to arrive at 4:00 in the morning. It was adorable and everything went perfectly, but it was a good reminder that horse vets (and horse vet interns, in particular) don’t really know the meaning of the word sleep between February and April. Having said that, it felt like I learned more in those few weeks than the entire previous semester.

The second externship was a whirlwind of surgery, lameness exams, and pregnancy checks. It was at an enormous hospital where each doctor is given their niche, and the sheer volume of patients they see meant that there were too many things going on for me to see them all. I generally tried to live in the operating room, as equine surgery was something I’d never really gotten a chance to see before. I saw surgeons work on colic cases, angular limb deformities, cryptorchid castrations, kissing spines, subchondral bone cysts, laryngeal hemiplegia, and on and on. In the short time I was there I was able to witness and assist with more and more diverse surgeries than I’ve ever seen in small animal practice or at school.

One day, a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist came by to take a look at a few patients with more complicated ocular disease. On a patient with unilateral glaucoma, he was able to take a good chunk of time and show the other extern and me how to do a thorough eye exam and the signs of disease in that particular horse. It was really nice to have that detailed explanation and hands-on experience before coming back to school to study equine ophthalmic diseases in the fall.

The third externship taught me more about herd health than I expected equine practitioners needed to know. Several clients owned dozens, if not hundreds, of horses, and managing them from a veterinary perspective became less about the needs of the individual horse and more about how to keep then entire group healthy. We spent an entire day driving around one property checking on different age groups of horses. Each little herd got a thorough distance exam, and those that stood out as being abnormal were inspected more closely and scheduled for diagnostics or treatments, as needed. This way problems needing medical attention were taken care of, but every individual horse did not have to have a full workup.

Every externship is different, and each of these taught me something new about being an equine practitioner. I’m still not sure if I want to be an equine vet, but now I feel like I have a good idea of what the day-to-day life involves.

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!

What it Means to be an Aggie

Priya at an Aggie Football GameIt’s that time of year again!

Texas A&M’s football season has kicked off and Saturdays are now reserved for watching the Aggies play their hearts out at Kyle Field or on TV if it’s an away game. The university has many traditions that have been organized and carried out throughout the years and one of the most treasured traditions that comes from football is the legacy of “The 12th Man.”

The 12th Man—what the student fan base is collectively known as—is a tradition and that came to be almost 100 years ago. On Jan. 2, 1922, Texas A&M was playing highly ranked Centre College at the Dixie Classic in Dallas. Not only were we losing, but our team was also plagued by multiple injuries that caused head coach Dana X. Bible to remove numerous players and their substitutes from the game. After halftime, Coach Bible noticed that the entire team was down to just 11 players and if just one more player had to be removed from the game, Texas A&M would have to forfeit to Centre College due to the lack of a full team.

It was at this moment that Coach Bible realized he needed a 12th man, someone who could step in and play when needed if another player were to be removed from the game. But Coach Bible was also aware that not every man knows how to play football so he couldn’t just pick a student at random and get ready and put on the uniform. Then, a light bulb flashed over his head and he remembered a current student and former football player who was sitting up in the press box. That student, E. King Gill. Gill, used to play for Coach Bible at Texas A&M but decided to take a break from the sport that season to focus more on basketball and baseball. Coach Bible quickly called Gill from the press box and asked him to suit up and be ready to enter the game. So, Gill wore previously injured Heine Weir’s uniform and stood on the sidelines as the 12th man of the football team.

At the end of the game, Texas A&M miraculously came out victorious against Centre College with a score of 22-14, and Gill never even had to run in to play in the game. However, we still honor him today because he was ready, waiting, and willing to play for his team if they needed him. Gill’s willingness to carry out the Aggie core value of selfless service in the football game, when his team needed him the most, has come to represent Texas A&M’s student section over the years and defines what it means to be a 12th Man.

kyle field gamedayAs a result, whether we win a game or simply run out of time (because Aggies never lose), you can always find the entire student section, rain or shine, standing throughout the game and yelling along with the Yell Leaders in support of our team and our university.

Said best by Texas A&M University itself, “The power of the 12th Man is echoed in the unity, the loyalty, and the willingness of Aggies to serve when called to so. And it is the reason that Texas A&M has earned a name that embraces Gill’s simple gesture of service: Home of the 12th Man.”

It’s hard to believe that I only have two more football seasons as current student before I start attending games as a former student! The legacy of The 12th Man is one of my favorite traditions at Texas A&M and a key factor that drew me to pursue an undergraduate career here all the way from Georgia. The traditions are what makes Texas A&M so unique from other schools, and I always feel so blessed to be a part of the Aggie family and to be able to call College Station home.

Puppy Love

Caitlin with her dogWhen I was 8 years old, my mom promised me that she would get me a puppy when I turned 12. Now, when you are 8 years old, this is a pretty big promise and something that you look forward to every day for the next few years. It was also a big deal because she didn’t just say she would get me a puppy—she promised, something that neither of us ever forgot.

If you can’t tell where the story is headed, let me just fill you in.

I didn’t get the puppy when I was 12. My mom decided that she couldn’t handle having a puppy in the house, and she didn’t trust a 12 year old to take full responsibility of a puppy (looking back, I don’t blame her). I was definitely disappointed, but I was a pretty understanding 12 year old, and I quickly let it go…kind of. From then on, I just reminded her of her promise to get me a puppy and told her that she owed me a puppy.

I didn’t really think that she cared until this summer.

Somehow, this summer I convinced my mom to get me a puppy. I have no idea how I did it. Maybe it was that I played the “you promised me a puppy” card, but she gave in much more easily than I anticipated. My only thought is that she secretly wanted a puppy in the house, too, so who better to get it for than the veterinary student.

So, on June 2, we drove about an hour and a half from our house, and we picked up Piper, the Golden Retriever puppy. She is the cutest little lady that I have seen, and I love her a lot. This summer, a lot of time was spent watching her sleep and playing with her. It was so fun to have her in the house, and my mom really enjoyed having her, too. She even told me that if my roommates didn’t like Piper that she would take Piper for me for the semester (which is never going to happen).

Piper SnoozesI am now starting my second year of vet school, and getting a puppy this summer was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. She gives me a lot of joy when I get to go home and see her and pet her soft head, and she helps me remember that I can take a break every once in a while. She has also given me a lot of empathy for puppy owners because having and training a puppy is not a walk in the park.

Seeing the joy that Piper gives me reminds me every day of my reason for entering this profession. When I graduate, I will get to spend my days with people who care a lot about their animals, and that is a special bond to experience. I can only hope to serve them well.

Eating the Elephant

Katelyn K.The moment I have been working toward for, seemingly, forever has finally arrived—I started vet school!

At first, the thought of everything required of you is completely overwhelming, and all at once the analogy that is often associated with vet school (“drinking water out of a fire hose”) is all too accurate, but the thing that has been said to me many times and has helped me ease into it is,  “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” That’s exactly what vet school is—an elephant of an education.

The first two weeks have consisted of getting into a routine and figuring out what is the best way to study for each course, since there is no universal method for every single one, and above all else, figuring out what actually works for me. Eating the elephant one bite at a time was the best advice because, for me, writing down my daily tasks and achieving the majority of those small pieces of the puzzle is much less intimidating and much more doable than striving for the biggest goal or goals all at once—like studying material every day, rather than studying only when the exams come up.

Things that I’ve never had to navigate before, like spending a considerable amount of time studying in groups and going into the anatomy lab almost every day to prepare for an upcoming exam, are now part of my daily routine.

Another thing that I’ve found extremely helpful during these first weeks is whenever our professors say everything is taught for a reason, they truly mean it! This makes the daily ins and outs much more exciting, since I know that I’ll be using my newly learned communication and catheter placement skills throughout my entire professional life!

In going forward for the next few years, I know there will be ups and downs and a huge variety of experiences on this marathon of an education, but I can’t wait to encounter them, one step at a time.

Looking Forward to an Exciting Semester

Angelica F.Howdy! The school year has just begun for undergraduates as of Aug. 27, and, yet, I feel as though I am still in “summer mode.” This year will be my junior (third) year of college, and it will be the toughest one yet. I’ve faced many challenges these past two years at Texas A&M; however, my struggles freshman year with general chemistry and sophomore year in organic chemistry have all led up to preparing me for veterinary school and vet school applications. As a student geared toward a pre-vet track, I am always looking for opportunities to work with animals and get those last few hours of animal and veterinary experience under my belt.

This semester, I signed up for a class interning and working at the Winnie Carter Wildlife Center with Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, and I am very excited to start working! Most of my life, I grew up working around dogs and cats; however, this will be my first opportunity to be around and learn about the behavior and nature of wildlife. I’m assigned to the pen of an ostrich named Sammy. Although he is quite large compared to me, he is very friendly and relaxed. In the mornings and evenings, we, as students, are also given a chance to work with and feed the other wildlife, such as whitetail deer, emus, llamas, and so much more!

I am excited to see the new challenges this semester will present, and, above all else, I look forward to working with such amazing veterinarians, technicians, and students! Best of luck this school year, and no matter what, stay positive and stay healthy!

Another year has begun!

Chelsea selfie on a hikeAfter a refreshing summer hiking in the mountains of Colorado and spending time with my family’s ranch of animals, I road-tripped back to College Station to begin my penultimate year of the DVM program.

As third-year DVM students, my classmates and I will explore a variety of clinical subjects that will prepare us for our fourth-year hospital rotations. In addition to general medicine and diagnostic imaging courses, this semester I will be taking classes in oncology, emergency response management, cardiology, and clinical pathology. We will spend time shadowing in Texas A&M’s small and large animal referral hospitals and practice necessary clinical skills you might have seen a veterinarian perform in a clinic or the field. We also will learn about regulatory procedures a veterinarian must follow, such as the rules of administering health certificates for animal travel.

Field of horsesNext semester, I will take a variety of equine and small animal medicine courses, such as dentistry, wound management, and neurology—among many others!

Lately I’ve been thinking back to how my younger self tromped around with a passion for veterinary medicine—helping my mother dry off a newborn foal, peering over a surgery table as one of my mentor veterinarians performed an ovariohysterectomy on a cat, walking down the row of a milking parlor full of dairy cows, observing social dynamics of baboons and capuchins, learning how to restrain a parrot, performing venipuncture, and running lab work. Since then, I have expanded my skills and gained confidence in discussing animal physiology and pathology, as well as how these principles relate to the various fields of medicine.

Chelsea PuppyIt’s incredible to think that this dream is almost realized—especially when I consider the responsibilities that come with maintaining professional integrity and competency for our patients, clients, and peers.

It can feel a bit daunting at times, but I greatly look forward to building a career as a veterinarian and leaning into the journey ahead.



One Down, Three to Go

Caitlin with her friends
Caitlin (far right) and her friends celebrate the milestone of completing their first year of veterinary school.

I cannot believe that I am writing this, but I just finished my first year of veterinary school! I have spent so much of my life anticipating vet school that it was really weird to be done with the first year and considered a “second-year” because I had not spent any time thinking about how that would feel.

It was a year full of adjustment and learning a lot, but my first year of vet school was a blast. Something that is really neat is that A&M revamped their curriculum, so we had so many hands-on experiences this year. My first semester, I learned how to do physical exams on dogs, horses, and cattle, and then we got to practice them again that semester. I liked it so much because working with the animals kept reminding me of the reasons I wanted to be a vet amidst all of the difficult classes.

This semester, we learned how to perform physical exams on tortoises, rabbits, and pigeons, exams I never thought that I would do or learn. One of the most useful skills that we learned (in my opinion) is how to work an ultrasound machine. I have probably put my hands on an ultrasound probe and worked with the machine at least four times; this is a skill that I know that I will need in practice, so it is great to start learning it now. I also have had time to become acquainted with the orientation of the patient when they receive an ultrasound, and the models that they let us practice on were really helpful in being able to figure out how to hold the probe and the types of hand motions needed to move it.

With the new curriculum, our first year in the classroom also looked a little different. Our first semester, we took the typical classes like anatomy and physiology and immunology, but we also had a class called “Integrated Animal Care” in which we learned from the A&M clinicians how best to treat a normal animal. We learned about animal behavior, vaccine schedules, and how best to care for neonates (a newborn animal), things that I know I will need and use when I graduate in three years.

My favorite part about my first year of vet school has been all of the communication practice that we have received. We have worked with actors who simulate a veterinarian-patient interaction, and it has been so helpful to start these encounters early. We learn from professors who know a lot about communicating well, and it is cool to see how it can even affect my day to day life as I listen and try to communicate well with people.

My first year was one of growth and adjustment, but it makes me all the more excited to continue with the program and learn how to be the best vet that I can be. I truly believe that I will learn about being a great vet who practices good medicine, and I cannot wait to continue with that as a second year in the fall.

My Last Blog

AlexAs finals week began for us undergraduates, most of us spent all of our time on studying, in hopes of squeezing the best possible grade out of every class. This finals week was a little different for me than my previous experiences—it is my final semester as an undergraduate.

So, in addition to studying, I found myself reflecting on my time as an undergraduate.

Like most students, beyond the academics, our time as undergraduates allowed us to develop as individuals and make long-lasting memories.

Not only has this been my last week of my undergraduate studies, but this also is my last blog as a student ambassador for the College of Vetrinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). One of the best experiences of my undergraduate career has been my time as a student ambassador.

This job has allowed me to experience a perspective of this university I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve seen high school and prospective veterinary students respond positively to our program here at the CVM. To see others become excited at the potential of attending our university has been a privilege, one that I will remember fondly; after being here for a few years, we can lose perspective on the opportunities we have here, and it’s always nice to be reminded of this.

While I will no longer be a student ambassador, fortunately, I’ve been accepted into Texas A&M’s Master of Public Health degree program at our School of Public Health. This means that despite moving on from my time as an undergraduate, I will still be close to our great college. In fact, I’ll only be across the street.

I wish the best to all current and prospective students. I hope to see you around.

Finally Entering Clinics

Class Of 2019 White Coats

The Texas A&M Veterinary Class of 2019 shared a bittersweet moment last Friday afternoon as we concluded our final classroom lecture of our professional curriculum. Without a doubt, the last three didactic years have been very challenging, and I am so proud of myself and my classmates for making it to this day, as we prepare to put on our white coats and begin clinical rotations next Monday.

That said, we must get through our final exams this week and endure the endless hours of studying before reaching for that white coat. Of course, we don’t expect the studying to end this week; we have the national and state licensing examinations to start preparing for, after all.

When my rotations begin, I will start on the anesthesiology rotation, which will expose me to anesthetic management in a variety of domestic, exotic, and laboratory species. As a fourth-year student, I will be participating in all aspects of anesthetic management, from preanesthetic evaluation of the patient, selection of drugs, monitoring of patients, supporting and recovering patients from anesthesia, and learning about pain management in post-operative care.

Needless to say, I’m filled with a lot of excitement, mixed with a heavy dose of nervousness and suspense. I hope the clinic floor is ready—the Class of 2019 is on its way!