When I first arrived at the San Francisco SPCA, I was definitely assumed to be a 4th year as that is the more common time for students to be doing externships. I was sure to inform doctors that I had just completed my first year so that they knew what level of knowledge (and perhaps experience) to expect from me.
Despite my inexperience, the doctors treated me with courtesy and respect. They challenged me and forced me to think and allowed me to apply the knowledge I had already acquired to work up cases with them. For instance, I applied my knowledge of creating blood smears from Hematology (Spring term, 1st year) to make blood smears and examine them via microscope. I further applied my knowledge of hematology to help preemptively diagnose eosinophilia. This sparked my knowledge of immunology and parasitology in that eosinophils typically respond to parasitic infections, which led me to want to rule out lung worms given the patient’s signalment. To help rule this out I performed a fecal float as we were not equipped to perform a Baermann. I found no signs of lung worm eggs on the fecal float and tenatively ruled out lung worms as we awaited lab results, which confirmed the eosinophilia and the lack of lung worm eggs. What satisfaction I received from being able to apply my knowledge to an actual case!
On another occasion a doctor asked me to take a kitten to a place where I could examine him and get back to her with what I thought. At first, I felt slightly intimidated, wondering whether my limited knowledge could get me anywhere with this kitten. I found the kitten she was talking about, sitting in a carrier, not even 2 pounds in weight. I took him to an area that was free from distraction and took him out and put him on an exam table. I quickly realized that his problem was neurological as he was severely ataxic and could barely hold himself up. I decided it would be safer if I got situated with him on the floor where I performed as much of a neurological exam as I could from memory. While I was working with him the doctor came over and asked, so what do you think? I told her what I had done and what I had found and then she asked me to propose where I thought the problem was. (I immediately recalled Dr. LeCouteur, our neurology professor, who always told us when we performed a neuro exam to ask ourselves 1) is there a lesion? and 2) where is it’s location.) Given the signs of severe ataxia, high stepping, and various vestibular signs, I suggested cerebellar and, to my delight, the doctor agreed.
Although these cases are just a few of the many I was a part of at the San Francisco SPCA, these were two examples of how I was able to apply the knowledge I gained, even after just one year of veterinary school to work up cases with doctors. I felt proud and amazed. I can only imagine how this is going to feel in a few year!