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.
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.
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???
Laura Byers, Ross University
Creative Corner, Winner