Building Foundations

One of the first things you receive as a first-year veterinary student is a “bone-box” for anatomy. This bone-box contains pieces of a dog skeleton that you will learn in its entirety over the course of the semester.

On the first day of class, I remember receiving my bone box and being instructed to inspect each bone for cracks, abnormalities, or blemishes.

I felt the tendrils of panic creep in as I looked at the checklist of bones—radius, ulna, femur, tibia, fibula, to name a few—and again at my box of bones, soon realizing that I had no idea what a canine (dog) radius looked like, let alone what any of the bony prominences should look like. Before I spiraled too far, a classmate who had prior experience with anatomy helped me identify and inspect my bones.

I am now in my 10th week of my first semester of veterinary school, and we have already learned most of the bones in our bone-box, as well as each bony prominence and its muscular attachments. In addition, we have learned of each bone’s relative position in the canine body and its relationships to all the surrounding musculature, nerves, and vessels.

Black dog with students sitting in grass
Practicing palpations on my classmate’s dog, Snoozy.

The learning curve to get from day one to week 10 was quite steep, and I am continuously adapting my study strategies.

Over the past 10 weeks, I have consistently found one of the most valuable strategies to involve some form of group-studying. My classmates and I are all coming to veterinary school with different strengths and weaknesses; together, we can fill in each other’s gaps in knowledge, test each other, and discuss connections across our curriculum.

One of our upcoming anatomy assessments will be in the form of a live dog (or cat, if you’re feeling brave) palpation, during which we will be assessed on our ability to find and locate certain bony prominences, musculature, blood vessels, and organs.

Being able to apply everything we have learned so far in anatomy will be utilized in building our personal knowledge of a normal physical exam. Even though each of us will eventually be conducting our physical exams independently, we are able to support each other through group-study in learning the process.

Although we are only 10 weeks into our formal veterinary education, we have already laid a foundation for a lifetime of collaboration and learning from each other.