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.

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