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Wednesday
Jul232014

My Time in South Africa

Kristen Crouch, Ross University

Life as a Vet Student, Winner

 

I have always grown up having a passion for the Earth and all of its wild creatures. Having wildlife biologists as parents and growing up just a short bike ride away from to a local wildlife rehabilitation center called Southwest Wildlife fostered my interest in wildlife and conservation medicine. When I was younger, I was able to meet and shadow Dr. Dean Rice, former Phoenix Zoo veterinarian, at the local zoo. This background with both free-ranging and captive wildlife helped prepare me for my visit with a company called Wildlifevets in South Africa. Being able to actively participate and apply what we’ve learned to field conservation medicine was the best experiences I could have hoped for and an experience I will never forget.

While with Wildlifevets, I was able to learn more about and refine my rudimentary wildlife darting techniques, proper drug use and how to calculate appropriate dosages for various species, post-immobilization techniques, and transportation of immobilized wildlife. Reading texts and journal articles and observing captures are nothing compared to the practical experience of working with free-ranging wildlife.

While in South Africa, I had the opportunity to participate in the large-scale capture, immobilization, and translocation of buffalo, immobilization and translocation of individual nyala as they were spotted in the bush, and immobilization and dehorning of rhinoceros to significantly decrease their exposure to being poached. I also attended lectures, practicals, and a post-mortem examination of a buffalo calf to further enhance the learning experience of this opportunity. Lectures included the obvious veterinary topics, but also included information on the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), wildlife management techniques, and the roles of tourism and hunting in managing Africa’s vast wildlife species.

Unlike North America where wildlife belongs to the public and is managed in the public trust, in South Africa, wildlife is owned by the landowners and managed as the landowners see fit. This leads to a much more intensive management as wildlife is generally restricted in movements due to high fences (albeit these are enclosures spanning tens or hundreds of square miles). It also leads to a greater need for application of conservation medicine to ensure health of herds, genetic diversity, treatment of individual animals (injuries, orphans, and illness) and protection of habitat.

While translocating certain species may not seem to have strong ties to conservation medicine, it is actually core to the process. Another experience I was lucky enough to participate in was a mass capture of impala. They are herded using helicopters or other machinery into V-shaped bomas, or enclosures, and when pushed into the final “corral” enclosure, they are stressed, some injured, over-heated, and exhausted, requiring veterinary care. I also got to help translocate buffalo from one farm to another. All must be immobilized, and once immobilized, closely monitored. They are placed on sternal recumbency, have their eyes covered, and have their body temperature and respirations monitored until release. Their blood is drawn for disease testing and general health assessments are conducted. If injured, injuries are assessed and treated if possible, although severely injured individuals may need to be humanely euthanized. Sometimes calves are hopelessly separated from their mothers, or the calves are trampled during darting. These orphan calves are transferred and sometimes raised by people. This was the case for us. Although exhausting, it was also fun to be able to bottle feed these orphans throughout nighttime shifts. We named our buffalo calf “Rossie,” and I’m happy to report that he will be reintroduced into a new herd sometime in the near future.

As many people know, rhinoceros are highly endangered in large part due to poaching for these magnificent animals’ horns. People in Asia and other countries believe their horns are practically magical for their aphrodisiac and medicinal qualities. National Parks in Africa are discouraged from removing horns from living rhinos, because tourists expect to see rhinos with horns. Rhinos living on private land holdings may be darted and immobilized to have their horns removed. Rhinos with no horns are of little interest to poachers, leaving these dehorned rhinos looking a bit odd but alive to continue to reproduce. However, there is still a risk that the poacher will be angered from tracking an already dehorned rhino and still shoot the animal to avoid tracking a wrong path again. Besides removing horns, special care is taken to collect genetic markers. The horns must also be specially marked and carefully catalogued to comply with government regulations and CITES. While sedated, the rhino’s horn is carefully sawed off, the animal is closely monitored for complications from capture (capture myopathy, overheating, respiratory issues, etc.), blood samples taken, saline administered intravenously to ensure hydration, and antibiotics are administered to prevent infection. The horns are micro-chipped, and while we were there, a government official had to be present during both rhino dehornings that we participated in.

Working in South Africa meant working with many different landowners, each with their own perspective of wildlife management and conservation medicine. I traveled outside South Africa to Swaziland, a country ruled by as a true monarchy with no democracy. Here, I also got to witness the challenge of translocating wildlife from one country (Swaziland) into another country (South Africa). The amount of effort Wildlifevets went through to obtain all permits was daunting, and extremely frustrating, but eventually successful.

My experience in Africa has furthered my interest in conservation medicine opportunities. I also firmly believe that working with the large variety of species, people of different cultures, and less than ideal conditions makes for a better veterinarian, even if one chooses to become a veterinarian for companion animals. I will never forget the valuable lessons I learned from this experience, and I will treasure it always. I cannot wait to return to this wonderful country again in the future, and I am truly inspired to follow my passion for a lifelong career in wildlife veterinary medicine.

Tuesday
Jul222014

I Know the Answer! Reflections from a Finishing First Year Vet Student

Sarah Blau, North Carolina State University

Life as A Vet Student, Honorable Mention

 

Nothing gets my adrenaline coursing, heart booming, and mouth dryer than dirt like the moment just before a public speaking event. Last month I had the pleasure and horror of giving just such a talk at my alma mater’s biennial physics department reunion. The topic of my talk: Fun Facts From Vet Med.

Every two years the department invites all of its alumni and current students to present on any topic from their research, job, or life. This was the first year I had actually agreed to give a presentation, and I was beyond excited to share some of what I’d learned as a first-year veterinary student. At the same time, I knew it would be a battle between my courage and my nerves, not only because I would be speaking in public, but also because a certain physics professor would be in attendance.

This professor, who I’ll call Professor X for the sake of this blog, is a physically and mentally intimidating genius of a man. Any student speaking before him quakes at the thought of the challenging questions he will surely put forth at the end of every presentation. Professor X was one of my favorite and most supportive professors, but I too dreaded the blank ignorance his questions might evoke while all eyes were on me. This time, however, it was different. This time, I knew the answers clearer than ever before. This time, I realized just how much I’ve actually learned over the course of one year of veterinary school.

My talk focused partly on the rabies virus and partly on the body’s response to parasitic infections. As I stated my conclusions and asked if there were any questions, my gut did a funny tumble when I saw Professor X raise a hand. He asked a very challenging question about how the body’s immune system knows to react to bits of parasites but not bits of the body itself. I perspired for a moment while I thought frantically and then quickly realized that I actually knew the answer! Infection and Immunity class this year had taught me exactly how the body determines foreign invaders from itself. My next challenge of course, was translating the highly involved biologic gibberish into terms my non-medical audience could understand, but I think I pulled it off alright in the end… and eventually Professor X ran out of questions.

That day that I presented to my old physics department is just one of many, many examples over the last month where I was shocked to realize how much information my brain has soaked up since school began in August. From beginning to understand guest lecturers giving lunchtime talks on clinical cases, to recognizing nerdy references in The Big Bang Theory, all this science I’ve learned is starting to make sense!

As a student, you don’t realize it’s happening during the school year. You sit through lecture after lecture. You study in your down time. You’re perpetually cramming for a big exam or lazing in a haze of exhaustion after taking a big exam. This is veterinary school. There’s fun bits too—wetlabs and lunch meetings and other little reprieves from the burden of it all—but mostly, it’s schoolwork.

You wonder how all this work will possibly make you into a doctor. But with every medical reference I start to understand, every clinical sign I recognize, every animal behavior I can advise upon, and every question from Professor X I can confidently answer, I see more and more clearly how this education will absolutely turn me into a knowledgeable and competent veterinarian.

Monday
Jul212014

Things My Mother Says

Christina Tataryn, Western University of Health Sciences

Foot In Mouth Disease, Honorable Mention

 

I walked into the kitchen one day to my mom singing "La cucaracha, La cucaracha, la la la la la la la.....". 

Me: mom what are you doing? 

Mom: Making Lemonade

Me: Why are you singing that song?

Mom: Its means "The Lemonade" in Spanish

Me: No Mom.....it means Cockroach

Mom: Oh.... well they like lemonade too! 

 

I talked to my mom on the phone the other day and was telling her about my new spending budget while I'm in school.

Mom: I'm so glad your being so savage!

Me: Savage?? Do you mean savvy???

Sunday
Jul202014

A Chance to Touch the Sky

Laura Byers, Ross University

Creative Corner, Winner

 

A little girl’s dreams are magical things,
And if she’s lucky, they can give her wings.
 A dream, a chance to touch the sky,

Horse as her guide, she learned how to fly.
Whether elegant strides, or difficult rides,
Jumps and falls that made her cry,
Fears were taught be pushed aside,
Because dreams can’t live until you try.
It’s amazing what a horse can provide,
Strength, love, and humbled pride
Responsibility, self-esteem,
All because a little girl followed her dream.
A dream, a chance to touch the sky,
Horse as her guide, she learned how to fly.

 

 

 


 

Saturday
Jul192014

2014 SAVMA Symposium Experience

Tara Farrell, Ross University

Experiences, Honorable Mention

 

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived in Colorado for the SAVMA Symposium.  Coming from a tropical island, I was immediately met with freezing weather.  This was a nice change from the hot, humid weather I had been in the last couple of months. I also did not know what to expect from people and the atmosphere at the conference since I had never been to one before.

From the very beginning of the symposium, it was busy.  My friends and I started off with the volleyball tournament at the CSU recreational center. This was a lot of fun and we met some very nice people from Wisconsin and other schools. Since the lectures didn’t start until Friday, I was able to explore Fort Collins with some friends and take a tour of The New Belgium Brewery.  Thursday night I explored the nightlife of Old Town Fort Collins by going on a pub-crawl.  My friends and I were able to eat some actual American bar food and have some delicious beer after being in the Caribbean for 3 months. Later that night, my group of friends met up and hung out with some of the people that we had met at the volleyball tournament earlier in the day.

Friday morning was another busy day from the beginning. I had my Small Animal Medical Procedures wet lab, which was an awesome experience. I learned techniques like urine catheterization, bone marrow aspirations and other procedures that I had not yet learned at Ross.  Later in the day I was able to attend some of the lectures and meet up with one of my friends who is a veterinary student at CSU.  We also saw and met up with some of the people we had done our Master’s program with at CSU.  That night, the symposium took us into Fort Collins for a Casino Royale Night.  This was a great opportunity to meet and mingle with people from other schools.  Coming from the Caribbean we had our own unique way of meeting people, which was by hula hooping. It was fun because people from other schools would come up and try to hoop and the few people from Ross who were good at it put on a little show. Casino Night was very fun, even though I did not gamble, but I did enjoy meeting people and hanging out with my friends.Volleyball at the Rec Center

On Saturday morning, my friends and I were met with a surprise outside when we woke up. It was snowing! This was fun to see, since we don’t have any seasons in the Caribbean and I hardly get to see snow at home because I live in Arizona.  I was also able to finally relax a little and attend some of the lectures in the morning.  Later that morning I met up with my sister, who had driven up from Denver. It was great to hang out with her and explore Fort Collins a little more in the snow! That night was the closing ceremonies, so we put on our best dress and got ready to have a great time.  The dinner was delicious and the speakers were all very good. The keynote speaker was Dr. Stephen Withrow, who gave a very good and inspiring speech.  He told us about his journey and how he was able to open the Cancer Center at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  He showed us how we can open doors in veterinary medicine that might lead to advances in human medicine.   This is important because the human-animal bond is even stronger these days.  

This whole experience has made me want to be a veterinarian even more and has made me more excited to be apart of the veterinary medical field. I think that any veterinary student who has a chance to attend the SAVMA Symposium should attend.  It is a great opportunity to learn more about the different fields of medicine and learn different types of medical procedures and skills.  This was also a great place to network with other students and lecturers. I would not trade this experience for anything in the world even if I did end up missing a test. I was able to grow more as a veterinary student and am more excited than ever about being apart of the veterinary profession.