Tufts at Tech is special in that we get the opportunity to practice veterinary medicine with minimal hand-holding. Whereas other rotations see us learning from vets in the small animal hospital, large animal hospital and wildlife clinic in the tiny town of North Grafton (the mothership campus), Tufts at Tech is located on the premises of the vocational school Worcester Technical High School. While there is always at least one vet on site to take questions from us, facilitate morning and afternoon rounds, and provide support, the majority of the surgeries, patient physical exams, and prescription-writing is done by students. It is in many ways a clinic for students and by students (even the construction of the clinic was done by high school students in their shop classes!). The goals are to foster education among the students (both in high school and vet school) and provide subsidized care for pets in the greater Worcester metropolitan area.
We all began the Tufts at Tech clinical rotation wet behind the ears. I am not referring to the aural hematomas that we saw later during the week’s worth of cases but rather to our lack of experience dealing with patients and helping clients gain a better understanding of the disease processes that may be affecting their beloved pets. And when I say “we,” I am alluding to my wonderful cohort of fellow V’18 (Class of 2018) students with whom I have had the pleasure of working during this particular block of rotations. I am thankful for my fellow rotation mates who helped me get through my first ever case!
Without disclosing any personally-revealing details, I can say that my patient was an intact female Boxer mix who presented on a Monday morning after having not eaten at all since getting into the family’s chicken bone scraps from Friday night dinner. She was showing, to borrow from the growing lexicon of acronyms that I hear spoken around the clinic and used in the medical records, PU/PD (polyuria/polydipsia) and was ADR (ain’t doing right). I figured that her inappetence and clinical signs were likely related to the chicken episode. Before doing abdominal radiographs, we decided to do a quick ultrasound and noticed a super inflamed uterus! This was highly diagnostic of a pyometra. So I quickly came to realize that she would need to be spayed in short order or likely die.
Going to bed that night I realized that sixteen hours earlier as I arose from the same bed I had no idea I would be involved in a life-saving surgery on my first day of rotations. But that feeling helped me sleep well and I imagine will serve as fuel to wake up for many more mornings to come.