Cherise Hill - Oregon State
The SAVMA Public Health and Community Outreach Committee awarded Cherise a $500 "Underserved Populations Externship Stipend” for her externship in Nevada.
For the first week of Christmas break, in my third year at Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, I completed a small animal surgery and medicine externship at Greenfield Animal Hospital in Yerington, Nevada. Much of Nevada provides a unique challenge for veterinary care as the region has many communities that are too small to supporta veterinary service on their own. Greenfield Animal Hospital is the sole veterinary hospital in Yerington and also provides veterinary services to people traveling from the surrounding communities: Smith Valley, Schurz, and Hawthorne (nearly 60 miles away). Both Drs Justin Smith and Jody Roderick have been incredible mentors ever since I worked there in high school, and were incredibly gracious to open up their hospital to me for a weeklong surgery and medicine externship.
Every morning I performed preoperative physical exams for the surgical procedures that day, checking for any clinical signs that would preclude the elective surgery, such as a severe heart murmur or respiratory disease. Many of the dogs that I had the opportunity to spay or neuter came from the Paiute Native American Tribe in Schurz and from the local Yerington Animal Shelter. I then spent the morning in surgery, working to perfect my skill with Dr. Smith giving me tips on how to be most efficient—from what he had learned at one of the other OSU’s – Oklahoma State University. Most of the dogs and cats were young adults with no complications. There was one dog in particular that I was concerned about because she was an older bulldog that had whelped several litters of puppies. I was happy when her anesthesia went very smoothly, and though there was increased hemorrhaging due to her pregnancy history, the surgery and recovery went well. By the end of the week, we had completed seven neuter or spay surgeries, and I felt incredibly more excited about being in the surgery suite for the rest of my life! Towards the end of the week a beagle came in with large abscesses and bite wounds on its neck, so was excited to clean out the abscesses and place a Penrose drain to allow the wounds to continue to drain.
In the afternoons I followed both Dr. Roderick and Smith in medicine cases. Many of them were the typical vaccination appointment, but I did get to see some cases that would be of interest to a veterinary student and I will mention three that stand out to me: One middle-aged gray tabby cat that came in for vaccinations had copper colored eyes, making me wonder if she had a portosystemic shunt. She had of course been healthy all her life, so there was no need to perform further diagnostics, but I’ll always wonder! A middle aged Siberian Husky with the classic ‘tragic facial expression’ was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and although he didn’t appear to me to have alopecia, I would assume that could easily go unnoticed with the northern breeds who have a thick coat to begin with. And finally, having just taken a surgery exam on repairs for a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), I was excited to have a look at the radiographs of a Shepherd mix at the 8 week recheck appointment, and rehearse the advantages and disadvantages of the three main CCL repairs.
On Wednesday morning I visited the Yerington Elementary School to give an hour-long presentation that I called “The Jobs of a Veterinarian.” When I arrived at the school I discovered the size of my audience had more than tripled because of the interest of other classrooms. In all, there were about 80 kids there, ranging from 4th grade up to 7th grade. I began by explaining the various types of jobs a veterinarian can have, including the lesser known jobs such as wildlife, and lab animal veterinarians. The kids were especially excited to learn about the veterinarian that attends to the dogs of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race! I gave the kids some interesting animal trivia, talking about how heart rates vary from large mammals to tiny hummingbirds in flight and why cephalopods have blue blood. One of the teachers had been cleared with the principal to bring her dog into the school, so I performed a brief physical exam and among other things, highlighted the importance of regular dental cleanings and keeping their pets at a good body weight. Finally, I spent the last 20 minutes answering questions the students had and was happy that so many of them were curious about veterinarians and other jobs that involve animals.
The week that I spent in Yerington was incredible –the doctors and staff at Greenfield Animal Hospital were phenomenally welcoming and patient with someone who didn’t know where anything was located in the hospital. It’s not a surprise in the least to say I highly recommend looking them up for an internship – it may not be the high volume clinic that you might see in a large city, but I certainly saw many cases that made me rethink my approach to certain diseases (the absence of the classic alopecia of a severely hypothyroid dog, for example). Most of all, it was exciting to give back to the community I had grown up in, both by raising awareness of the need for veterinary care with the kids at school, and also practicing my surgical skills to make some pets behave like much better citizens.