Summer Experiences

This summer, I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in Banfield Pet Hospital’s Summer Job Program. Back in March, I was assigned to work at a clinic in Houston. The program is designed to be a mix of working as a technician and learning alongside the doctors. While I was initially concerned that the experience would be canceled due to COVID-19, everything continued as planned!

At the start of the experience, I was asked to rank my comfort level in different areas- clinical skills, communication skills, and business skills. This allowed to me to evaluate myself and think of what I wanted to get out of the program. I was able to talk with both my assigned coach doctor and the practice manager to discuss my goals- placing IV catheters, practicing drawing blood from the jugular vein, and performing physical exams. I was eager to practice the skills I learned my first year of vet school in a real clinic!

Starting day one, I was surrounded by supportive and encouraging technicians and doctors. Everyone asked what skills I wanted to hone, and were quick to say “Tabitha, come do this!”

Not only did I perform routine physical exams, but I also got to do orthopedic and neurologic exams. I also became much more confident in interpreting diagnostic tests like fecal exams and ear cytologies. I even got to scrub in on surgeries!

Getting to put everything I learned into practice this summer really enforced that I love the veterinary medicine industry. I love interacting with clients, learning new things, and working with animals with totally unique personalities. I am already looking forward to everything I will learn this coming school year.

Moving into Surgery, Externships

It seems as though the further I get into veterinary school, the faster the semesters seem to fly by.  

As I am writing this post, it is week eight of my second semester as a second-year veterinary student.  It seems like just yesterday that it was week one. 

Probably the most exciting thing about this semester has been starting surgery.  We have our “Introduction to Surgery” course this semester, and it has been such a great experience.  

Even the simple things, like learning how to wrap our surgery gowns and instruments and how to get scrubbed and gowned for surgery, have been exciting for me. So far this semester, we have already practiced a liver biopsy and an abdominal exploratory.  

One of the coolest things about introductory surgery is the extremely realistic models we get to use to practice procedures on. Each model even has its own pump system that simulates blood flow and bleeding.  

I think that practicing on these realistic models is a great way to gain confidence before having real patients put in front of us; the things we are practicing and learning in our clinical skills and surgery courses are going to make us much more confident when it comes time to perform real procedures.  

I definitely feel like I leave every semester of veterinary school more and more confident and prepared to help my future patients.  

Right now, I am focused on going into equine medicine after I graduate, and so in the midst of studying, I am also arranging summer externships.  

I can say that I am truly lucky to have such an amazing group of professors who have been willing to meet with me outside of class to help me establish connections with clinics that I want to extern at.  

I am excited to take what I have learned this semester, and past semesters, and apply it during my externships!

Piecing Together the Puzzle

Ali C.We are now over a quarter of the way done with the semester! Whoop! Veterinary School is really good at keeping our minds and bodies busy, so even though it feels like the clock is barely ticking during some class days, it’s actually FLYING by! I can feel the jittery excitement in the air, because all of my third-year classmates can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the vet school tunnel. We are gaining confidence, skills, and wisdom; we finally feel closer to being doctors and further from students.

We third-year students have gotten more comfortable with basic surgical procedures so far this semester; nevertheless, I still sweat bullets the entire time. Putting non-powdered surgical gloves onto sweaty hands should be an Olympic sport. Gold medal goes to me for my hilarious and laborious struggle with such a menial task! This week, AFTER I took 10 minutes to get my gloves on, I proceeded to accidentally poke a hole in the glove on my left index finger with a stray towel clamp, which meant I had to stop what I was doing, remove my poked glove, and start the whole gloving process over again. It’s definitely a learning curve.

Luckily for me, sweating doesn’t interfere with my paper test-taking skills! 3VM students had a BIG Small Animal Medicine test this week covering a month and a half of oncology and endocrinology material. These are probably some of the most common diseases I will be dealing with as a small-animal veterinarian once I graduate. Unfortunately, at least 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 will get some form of cancer, which is why it is so important for us to learn how to treat and manage cancer patients. It may be surprising to you, but dogs and cats are candidates for chemotherapies and radiation, just like humans! Our professor, Dr. Claudia Barton, made sure to emphasize the fact that cancer is indiscriminate of species; therefore, observations from cancer in our domestic animals can be studied and incorporated into human oncologic research.

For endocrinology, we are taught by Dr. Audrey Cook, who has a wonderful European accent and a remarkable passion for the diseases she presents. I actually printed out all of her notes, put it in a binder, and labeled it my “Cook Book,” since I plan on keeping it on my shelf in my veterinary practice in the near future. My favorite disease she has talked about is feline hyperthyroidism. I like it because it is a disease that likes to hide behind the façade of just “old cat syndrome,” but when correctly diagnosed and treated it can really improve the lives of our aging kitties. It is nerve-wracking to learn all of these common, everyday diseases while having aging animals of your own. I find myself wondering which diseases my own cat will get someday—and hoping I will be sharp enough to spot them early and treat them!

This upcoming Monday is one of the few Mondays that we don’t have an exam. To take advantage of my lessened weekend stressors, I am headed back to my hometown of Boerne to visit my parents, my 103-year-old great-uncle, and my three brothers. I haven’t seen any of them since summer and am starting to feel the homesickness. I try to make time during the week to reach out to all of them, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen with everything else going on. Hopefully they can get my head out of my textbooks, help me to relax, and have a little fun before diving back on Monday.

What I have found to be so incredible and different about our third year of vet school is that we are finally putting all the pieces together and understanding veterinary medicine on a different level. Our veterinary puzzle is actually starting to come together, and it is SO EXCITING!