Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mid-Summer Evaluation

I am still struggling with balancing my life with my NIH position. The pilot study has gotten underway and I find I have not time to even enter and evaluate the data. I feel like I race around the NIH campus just to make a meeting or to store samples, etc. While it is a good experience and a resume booster, it is not enough time learning about what a lab animal vet does and too much time watching mice behaviors and pressing on their rear for fecal samples. I don't see how my poster will be done in a month either since my sponsor is on vacation for most of July.

Meanwhile my Saturday shift at the Hope Center has been very rewarding. I intubated my first cats last night (it is much harder than a dog), got some catheters in and really felt like I made a difference. One of the new doctors is a senior from VT that just graduated in May and it was funny how I helped him with a blocked cat. It made me feel more at ease that starting out is a challenge for all vets and perhaps I have some advantage because of my experience at the Hope Center.

Matt and I went to the Outer Backs and VA Beach last weekend and it was absolutely beautiful. Many wildlife refuges, lovely beaches, great seafood and not enough time to see it all. I would have loved a whole week there and we are toying with the idea of returning at the end of the summer.

In my not so spare time I am trying to have a social life and work on my resume and externship ideas. I saw a wonderful ballet with my sister Thursday night at the Kennedy Center. Matt and I went to Artomatic in DC Friday night and got inspired by all the wonderful artists and photographers in the area.

It just stinks that I have less time and less sleep than I really would have liked my last summer before graduation. Hindsight is 20/20, but part of me wishes I just worked at the Hope Center all summer, instead.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lab Animal Medicine Realities

While I was in love with my position at NCI-NIH in Lab Animal Services, it has taken a slight detour away from the clinical side toward another deadline intense, time-draining summer research project. While I think the project is important for the welfare of laboratory mice used in surgical research, by looking at different analgesics and different doses through corticosteroid levels and behaviors, spending my entire summer locked in a basement for 8-10 hours a day watching mice behaviors is not going to give me the idea of a career in lab animal medicine.

The opportunities, speakers, meetings at NIH are amazing opportunities. I strongly fear that because of this study I will be unable to participate in them. Today I attended the first of 4 journal club meetings having to do with teaching how to critically read a scientific article and current MRI research. I hope I can attend the next 3 as well, just one of the many opportunities for summer students that I may miss out on.

The first 2 weeks of my internship I shadowed a lab animal vet on his animal rounds, sat in on an IACUC meeting and spent some time learning clinical primate techniques and standards of protocol. Now I may not have those opportunities again.

When I started this summer I was asked about my goals and what I wanted out of this summer. While I voiced my opinion and the first few weeks were perfect, this week we (pretty much just I) start the pilot study, which will take up almost all day Tuesday and Thursday. Next week it could take up the same amount of time, and if the pilot study is successful we will be doing 10-15 animals per day, all of which require behavior watches at 1, 3, 5, 7 hours post-Sx.

While I understand the importance of the study and the impact it can have on lab animal medicine if it is successful (no similar data is available for mice), the time pressure of summer research is frustrating. As my last summer before I graduate, I really need to explore as many options in veterinary medicine as I can. Only watching mice for painful behaviors is not going to help guide my career ambitions.

I hope after the next 4 weeks, a middle ground is found.

In the meantime, Matt and I have been biking and hiking and having leisurely weekends with great weather. I am glad I decided to work at the Hope Center on Saturdays, even though it makes for a 6-day work week.

This weekend we head south to Richmond, VA beach and the OBX for some camping, driving and R&R.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Early Start to the Week

This morning I awoke at 5:15 am to get to the primate facility by 7. I was planning to rebel and drink my tea on the metro,, but somewhere between my car and the train my thermos disappeared. I was devastated and very tired, but I made it on time to practice some physical exams on the sedated macaques.

After that I headed back to the office to do some safety and emergency preparedness required reading and try to plan the rest of the week.

I did have time to take aerobics class during lunch which woke me up and will save time later.

I spent the afternoon shaving mice to save time when we practice our vasectomy surgerical technique for the last time before the pilot study tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Major Mishap

I was warned by all 3 anesthesia instructors, "You will make this mistake." After 3 successful intubations in class, I honestly thought I wouldn't be that stupid. I was. I had the opportunity at my emergency shift Saturday to be the anesthetist and I messed up the intubation. We fixed it quickly and the dog did great under anesthesia, until another horrible thing happened.

The abdominal exploratory looked worse than expected and the simple procedure the owner agreed to pay for would not be sufficient. The owner still refused to perform the other, more expensive but good prognosis, surgery and I had to euthanize the animal on the table. I was really shaken up by my decrease in confidence and the irresponsibility of the owner. The owner has many times allowed the 2 year old sweet poodle/lab mix to eat socks because "he always just passes them." Yet he refused to perform the appropriate surgery to heal the dog he hurt.

It was horrible and again made me question if small animal medicine is the right career for me.

As I write this I realize what a tremendous learning experience and career exploration this summer may turn out to be.

Week 2 at National Cancer Institute

My second week at NIH was just as exciting as the first one.

I worked up a primate case on endometritis, spent more time with some young macaques handing them food. Note: they love marshmallows and pineapple. Some are shy, some are more outgoing but they all have fun, unique personalities.

We spent some time organizing logistics for my analgesia study. We are starting the training for the pilot study this week. Our mice come in on Tuesday and we will be behavior watching and practicing vasectomies one last time before the real thing next week. Some days will be long and hard, but hopefully it will be worth it.

I sat in on an Animal Care Use Committee Meeting and it was eye opening. I saw first hand how the legislation that many times feels like red tape when trying to organize a wet lab or experiment really does have a major impact on the welfare of the animals. It also mentioned numerous studies going on at NCI to cure brain cancer to breast cancer to HIV to ovarian cancer.

Being involved in lab animal medicine incorporates clinical duties, animal welfare, research knowledge, and the cutting edge of new medicine.

Next week I have 2 surgery days with the primates. I have to get up a little earlier than I prefer, but hopefully it will be rewarding.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

VPI Summary

Better late to review than never I suppose, even though I got back 2 weeks ago from California.

I really enjoyed my week in LA and benefited greatly from my week at VPI. The people were amazing and nice. My understanding of pet insurance will really add to my career if I choose the small animal career path.

While I spent 6 years in business prior to starting vet school, I did not have much knowledge on how the insurance industry works. I also did not realize that for some reason the general public does not think of pet insurance in the same way as medical, dental or even car insurance. They do not understand you have to pay for various levels of risks and benefits as you would for car insurance for pet insurance as well. They also do not understand why their pet may not be insurable or why they may still have to pay some amount.

VPI showed me that pet insurance can bridge that gap between medical advancement, higher costs, and an owner’s love for a family member if we understand how an insurance company operates. As veterinarians we must understand and educate clients on pet insurance if we want to continue to offer the best medical treatment options possible.

Learning how an insurance company works is vital in client education if veterinarians are able to educate their clients on pet insurance properly. I now have a detailed understanding of the education pitfalls currently coming between clients, pet insurance veterinarians and small animal medicine.I can use this knowledge to educate my classmates, practitioners I meet and my clients in 2 years to bridge the lack of understanding of how pet insurance works and why it costs and covers what it does.