If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my three weeks here at the AVC, it’s that everything is intimately linked together in the body. Every specialty whether it be pathology, anatomy, critical care or surgery is so closely related, and it’s something I never really thought about. I say to myself, “Ugh, why do I have to know the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. Well, Shannon, stop complaining. When you’re looking at a radiograph you need to be able to determine any lesions, fractures, etc and when you’re in surgery you’re definitely going to need it as a landmark for muscle attachments and joints and probably everything else in the forearm.”
Two things led me to this revelation. One, going back to the dinner I had with my mentor. Since she’s a specialist in the hospital, she was talking about how a patient might come in and be seen by five veterinarians. It could be seen by a critical care staff for lethargy, an internist for abnormal kidney function, a radiologist for ultrasound, then a surgeon to remove a mass from the kidney, and then a pathologist to determine what the mass is. I made this up mostly, but you get the gist. Another thing she mentioned as being a veterinarian, especially as a mixed animal practitioner, “You’re the jack of all trades, master of none.” Pretty funny but also kind of true. Knowing every tiny detail of every species of animal in the world is A LOT of information, and that’s why there are specialties!
The second major event that led me to my revelation would be the disease called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). Sounds intense right? Well in one week, I learned more about it then I think the normal first-year vet student does but here goes. We start in Structure and Function class. Each week we are presented a “case.” Disclaimer: No real patients were used in the making of this case. We’re given initial symptoms, talk about what it could be, develop a game plan, then we’re given physical exam findings and test results (ie, blood results), then again talk about what it could be and develop a game plan. So, we’re in the middle of this case, and when I left class Wednesday we had just been given a CBC (complete blood count) and had to determine the results. Now, I had seen a CBC before and maybe knew what some results meant, but I was by no means advanced at it, and I’m still not as a first year obviously. However, the next day at lunch I went to clinical pathology rounds where we basically get a blood smear, a CBC, and talk about what everything means. It was the most useful and best timed extra learning I could have asked for. The results were almost identical to the case study from class, and me and a couple friends were pumped! So I felt pretty awesome walking into class the next day knowing how to explain the blood results to my group as well as knowing the diagnosis of IMHA. So I’ve learned about it now in terms of symptoms and blood work. Next up, in Immunology class, we talk about IMHA in terms of the mechanism of how the body attacks its own red blood cells. Learning about it from the immunology standpoint, check. Then the real kicker was going on hospital rounds with one of the teaching staff and going over a case of IMHA. Us first years could talk about spherocytes, RBC aggregation, and petechiae on the level with the third and second years. Maybe we just felt a little too cool about it, but it was nice to not just stand their nodding our heads as they talked about stuff we had never heard of!
Moral of the story, even though we might all complain about it, knowing about how the body functions as a whole is so fundamentally important, and amazing!