This summer I had the opportunity to do an externship close to home and apply the knowledge from my first year of veterinary school.
I joined in on the Veterinary Education Research Outreach (VERO) externship program at West Texas A&M University that is offered for second- and third-year veterinary students. During this time I worked closely with Dr. Dan Posey, clinical professor of veterinary science and the academic coordinator of the VERO program, who provided more opportunities than I could experience in one summer.
Though I am from the area, this was a new experience for me because it was more focused on the veterinary side of the industries available there.
Every new experience I have makes me more excited for my future as a veterinarian, and this one was no exception. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in school, but these opportunities outside of class put everything into perspective.
Even with only one year under my belt, I was able to talk through diagnostics, surgery approaches, and treatment plans without feeling like I was listening to a foreign language. I had the privilege of teaching 4-H veterinary science students how to perform a physical exam on a dog, horse, and cow.
Now, beginning my second year, I have already applied the things I learned this summer, and I know I can expand on the areas I didn’t fully understand.
Every day was different, just like it will be in a mixed animal practice, and if I enjoy each day and challenge as much as I did this summer, I don’t think I will work a day in my life.
Now that Christmas break has come and gone and we are now back at school this week for spring semester, I am finally in the homestretch of my path of becoming a veterinarian. After my spring semester finals, I will be going straight into my clinical year this May. During our clinical year, each student takes a core set of rotations in both the small and large animal hospitals, since as veterinarians we are licensed to work on all species.
But for the remaining rotations, we get to pick a track that most closely follows what we are interested in doing once we graduate. I want to work primarily with dairy cattle, so before break I chose the food animal track. I will spend several rotations in the Food Animal Department, where they treat food and fiber animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, pigs, and even the occasional camel. I then have the opportunity to conduct externships that will give me more experience in my chosen field.
Because I am hoping to get a job as a dairy veterinarian when I graduate, last summer I spent time in the Texas Panhandle working with dairy veterinarians. There, I worked to develop skills in areas such as diagnosing a cow as pregnant, hoof care, drawing blood for testing, and surgical techniques. I also participated in an externship back near my home in Pennsylvania, where I got more dairy and small ruminant experience.
My externships this next year will be across the country so that I hopefully will gain a better idea of how dairy medicine is done throughout the United States. I will be going to California, Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and the Panhandle again to get more experience under different veterinarians. I’m looking forward to what the next year and a half will hold for me. It’s hard to believe how soon I will be making medical decisions and helping patients, and I can’t wait to see what I will learn!
As happy as I am to be back in College Station and in the midst of my second year of veterinary school, I can’t help but long for the days of this past summer—waking up at 2:30 a.m. each day, throwing on my coveralls and tall rubber boots, and having the amazing opportunity to spend my days working alongside veterinarians and health technicians on a commercial dairy in northeast Texas. Whether we were ultrasounding cows to confirm pregnancy, performing a necropsy, discussing a mastitis outbreak, dehorning heifers, or vaccinating calves, I loved it all; each day ended with me being even more excited about pursuing a career in dairy production medicine upon graduating from vet school in May 2020.
Summertime during vet school is the perfect opportunity to get out of the classroom and laboratory setting, further explore our veterinary interests, and gain valuable hands-on, clinical experience. What made my experience so beneficial, in particular, was how I was able to utilize all of the knowledge I acquired from my first year of vet school. For example, thanks to microbiology, from the spring semester, I knew that those Johne’s calves were infected with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and that this pathogen is primarily transmitted via the fecal-oral route. Or, now that we are taking pharmacology this semester, it makes perfect sense why pirlimycin was being used to treat Streptococcus uberis mastitis—pirlimycin is a macrolide antibiotic that targets gram positive aerobes and S. uberis is a gram positive aerobe! I only wish I knew then that bile imbibition is a normal post-mortem change and that fibrin is associated with acute inflammation!
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day “grind” of vet school, but experiences like this summer remind me why I am here and why I am just so excited to be working my way toward that Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. I look forward to spending the rest of this academic year soaking up all of the new knowledge I can so that I can go into next summer’s externship at a big dairy practice in California as prepared as possible!