This block of third year, we started clinics. Finally! The day we’ve been waiting for! The day we get to jump into a fourth year’s rotation for a day and really live in the moment of being a veterinarian (or, at least closer to one). It’s a pretty exciting time to be a third year vet student.
Even though my interests lie in small animals and exotics, our clinics are assigned randomly, giving us the chance to see veterinary practice from every angle before we finalize our “track” (small animal, large animal, mixed animal, or alternative) for our fourth year. So, my first clinic day was on the equine orthopedic surgery service. It was quite a busy day. Lameness is one of the most common reasons most of our equine patients come to the hospital, so the orthopedic surgery service is always a whirlwind of activity. On our day, the fourth year we followed around had seven patients staying in the hospital recovering from surgery, including an adorable palomino foal, a little miniature horse, and some beautiful larger patients, too. We watched the expected bandage changes and lameness exams, but we also got to see radiographs taken, nerve blocks and re-check lameness exams, ultrasound of tendon injuries, joint injections into the cervical vertebrae of a radioactive horse (he’d had a bone scan and was not radioactive when examined—the appropriate time frame had passed for a safe exam!), and even a bone marrow collection to be used for stem cell therapy in one of the horses with a tendon injury! Phew! For my non-equine-oriented brain, it was quite a day.
The other fun part of the day was watching the difference between clinicians doing the procedures and the fourth year students doing them. We had a fun time in particular watching the bone marrow collection, a pretty simple procedure—when you watch the clinician do it. The marrow is collected from the sternum and then sent off to grow stem cells to use for therapy in a couple of weeks. A lot of times this is done in conjunction with surgery, as in our case, or injected for stem cell therapy and healing of the tendon alone. This may be a very crude explanation, but bear with me: basically, a large needle is placed a couple of centimeters into the bone, and the marrow collected from the opposite, open end. The clinician twisted the needle into bone expertly (BONE, by the way), and collected three samples in a matter of a minute or two. Then, she allowed the fourth year student to take the last sample. “It’s not as easy as she made it look!” she said, followed by “I need to go to the gym,” when her twisting was unfruitful. Everyone had a good laugh (including the fourth year—humility is one of the skills we all have to learn in this profession, too! It isn’t always easy, but it is always about learning more than you knew before), and we had a good time learning along with the fourth year. It was a cool procedure to be able to see, for sure. I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to make things look easy and be a mentor for someone who loves this profession and wants to be a part of it as much as I do.