One of the things I really enjoy about our Dermatology course is the homework. Sounds crazy, right? On top of long days spent in class or studying, and the general stress of upcoming Junior Spay surgeries, how could I possibly enjoy homework? Well for one thing, there are lots of pictures. Pictures of cute, sad-eyed dogs with itchy bellies make me desperately thumb through textbooks to find an answer, while gross pictures of oozing sores and crusting skin hold me in a horrified, fascinated thrall.
Also, since our assignments are due before we learn pertinent diseases in class, we are approaching these skin disease cases with absolutely no idea what’s going on. It’s kind of scary to figure out a case when I have very little background knowledge. For example, I know that coughing can be a sign of lung infection, or heart disease, or a problem with the windpipe or nose (among others). But I had absolutely no idea what causes hair loss in dogs, which was happening to the dog described in our first homework assignment. So what do I do when I don’t know the answers? I look them up! With dermatology, getting my hands on an actual textbook proved to be much more helpful than googling key words or even specific diseases. The textbook had some great pictures of the skin lesions (ulcers, wheals, scaly skin, etc), but even better was that similar diseases were listed near each other. So if I suspected a parasite, I could flip to the bug section and look at the insects and worms that might be to blame. If I suspected an allergy, I could flip through the dizzying array of similar-looking skin lesions and pay attention to the way veterinarians can tell them apart.
I feel like the homework give me a good idea of how skin disease medicine is different from other medical fields like emergency med or production medicine, but yet also reinforces some of the key skills and processes of medicine. Observation, a good diagnostic plan, and patience all seem to be key in successfully treating skin problems
Plus, I get to hang out with a friend for 90 minutes every week, which is both very fun and a good chance to learn from a peer!