Hello Merck Veterinary Manual World! I’m excited to have joined the Vet Student Stories Blog as a contributor this summer! Hopefully, you’ll see my posts around a bit this year, starting with, you guessed it, numero uno, right here!
You might wonder what exactly vet students do with their precious time off during summer break (if they are lucky enough—read between their 1st and 2nd or 2nd and 3rd year of school). As you might imagine, it involves sleep, and more sleep, and even more sleep. Lots of catching up on sleep. That is, until we realize just exactly what we have in front of us—almost three months of unlimited opportunity! Summer is the time to find what you love about veterinary medicine and go after it full force, hands-on, and in the thick of it. During the year, we don’t get much in the way of extracurriculars, at least that relate to what we envision ourselves doing for a career. Sure, there are plenty of clubs and wet labs and student organizations, but, honestly, though we may be leaders and members and participants, our whole heart is not always there during the semester. Sometimes it’s because we have a test the Monday after a weekend wet lab, sometimes we feel so overwhelmed during the week that we just want to go home and binge watch something that doesn’t take our entire mental focus for a while, and sometimes, well, sometimes we are just dog tired, unmotivated, and not feeling very veterinary at all. Fear not, though, there are constant reminders of how amazing veterinary medicine can be even in the toughest of times, and especially during the summer.
This summer, I was lucky enough to be able to work as a student researcher in a veterinary pathology lab. Which means, among other things, I spent most days staring at slides on a microscope and coming home cross-eyed. But, for me, this opened yet another possible door in the ever-evolving field of veterinary medicine: pathology. Oh, pathology! Gross lesions (in more ways than one), miniscule findings (that make you jump for joy), beautiful stains and fluorescent colors…The great equalizer, pathology, the field in which you can examine any species or organ system. Have you figured me out yet? I think pathology is really cool. It also makes me appreciate the world of veterinary diagnostics and just how very much we know as veterinarians. When my lab mentor for the summer, a veterinary pathologist, and one of our second-year pathology professors race through slides pointing out the tiny things I have to look for twice (probably more like twenty times), I see a world of possibilities in this one discipline: parasites, bacterial diseases, viruses, protozoa, and the list goes on! But of course, as research all too often goes, this summer we saw almost everything BUT our target bacteria. The upside is that pathology is a discipline of short-term wins (cool lesions and microscopic techniques) that lead to long-term and incredibly important advances in the understanding of disease and baselines for the study of the mighty microbiome. There is almost never a down point, unless, that is, you see nothing at all. As my research experience comes to an end, I can move into the fall semester with a brand new appreciation for the work veterinarians are doing every day to improve our knowledge of animals, diseases, and how all these things relate to us and our world.