Sunday, April 25, 2010


I remember:

being terrified of the pharmacology midterm and crying from being overwhelmed just before the lab where we learn how to get cows in a chute.

everyone telling me how fast it will go and thinking to myself, "but each day is so long."

jumping out of my seat after 8 hours of lecture to run on the indoor track and clear my head.

studying in the library bridge for 10+ hours straight including meals and vowing to never do that again.

walking up the steps after a long day and anatomy lab, thinking to myself, "what the hell did I do? I left this easy job that paid well, for this stressful, formaldehyde-smelling life that doesn't include Matt."

some point in the middle of 2nd year no longer questioning why I left my finance career behind.

my surgery partner (also a second career student) saying "isn't this so much cooler than sitting at a desk all day?" as I finish closing up my canine castration incision.

thinking I am not smart enough to be here.

all those nights I could not fall asleep despite melatonin, benadryl, excedrin pm...

the feeling of what do I do now after the last final of each semester.

and I am sure to remember so much more over the next year, hopefully those memories will be just a little more positive than the first 2 years.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hard to Believe

Well, I made it through the trenches, with one more week and 2 exams remaining in the 3rd year of vet school. The past 2 days we have had some 4th year meetings and our very last lecture in the sanctioned classroom. The transition is feeling real and amazing. While vet school has passed by quickly in retrospective, I feel like a lot has happened in 3 years. When you start that very first day of first year or when you have had it with second year, that blue senior student jacket seems absolutely unattainable. I think we can all attest this week, that while you worked very hard for it, it was attainable all along, by taking school one day at a time.

Everyone asks, "Are you ready?" No, who is and who will be? I am ready to stop sitting on my bum all day watching powerpoints. This time next year I won't be ready to become a doctor, but I'll do it and it will be okay in the end...because if it's not okay, it's not the end yet.

I think the important thing to remember is that there is a steep learning curve. I need to be patient with that learning curve and work at it slowly, day by day, just like the past 3 years. I assume in retrospect, also like the past 3 years, it won't seem so horrible. In Tao they talk about water as being the strongest element of life, not because it is the most forceful but because it is determined and perseveres over time to shape rocks and mountains.

In my opinion, that Tao quote would be the best way to sum up the first 3 years of vet school. And when I have a horrible day on clinics, I must channel what would water do, it would just keep flowing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Veterinary Experience Antedote

Well the 2 hardest finals are over. I do not think I did great on the one today, but I do think I passed by some slim margin. It is a relief to have that beast of a class behind me. Less than 2 weeks, 2 more finals and 1 paper to go.

As promised, here is my story about taking Spokane to the vet a few weeks ago:

Spokane was lethargic and not acting right for a few days. She vomited twice and was having some intermittent diarrhea. I had faith that it was simple dietary indiscretion and withheld one of her meals and gave her half of her dinner that evening. The next day she had a mild fever of 103 and didn't want her breakfast at all. I started to worry it could be a systemic infection and thought I should take her in.

First of all, the vet tells me it may not be a real fever, she may just be hot. I explained that I took it twice after she was calm and inside and it's real. He believed the diagnosis to be dietary indiscretion, but worthy of a fecal. He quizzed me on the most obscure parasite on the fecal, which I learned as Giardia, but he said was whipworms. Spokane is on a heartworm preventative that kills whips, and while of course it is possible she could have them, it is less likely the culprit.

The fecal was normal and he thought she was acting fine. I clearly wanted him to do something else since it had been 4 days of lethargy and she was now showing systemic signs. He came back in the room, told me she should be on a dog food for a bigger, more active dog instead of a food for her current weight (she is not underweight) and then offered a subcutaneous injection of penicillin G to "reset her GI flora." He indicated that sometimes this helps get them back on track.

Dr. Leib never mentioned resetting GI flora with penicillin and I was pretty sure that wouldn't kill the possible bacteria that could be causing the problem. He also claimed that dietary indiscretion was just a nice word for food poisoning, which I also didn't recall from GI class.

I went ahead with the shot. I thought to myself, "he thinks it works because in the past the client was happy that the doctor gave them something, but their animal would have gotten better anyway. And of course the next morning Miss Spokane was back to her old crazy self, but no thanks to penicillin G.

Since we have talked a lot about antibiotic usage in clinical pharmacology, I decided to speak to my professor about it. I learned that not only is using penicillin or any antibiotic one time only to reset GI flora not true or useful (you would want the normal flora present to compete with the real "bug"), but a subcutaneous dose would not even reach her GI tract in the first place. We started cracking up. Another professor was there and said that at least I recognized that she was better because she would have improved anyway, not thanks to the good old pen G.

It is hard to be a vet and a pet owner. I understand why the vet did what he did, but he also created more antibiotic resistance and stuck a needle in my needle-averse dog (she takes after her mom). Clients often want a fast fix when there isn't one, but many vets give one anyway if it's not too harmful. It was also hard for me to withold food for the more appropriate 24-48 hours, which would reset the flora, because I was worried (like most owners) that she would be hungry. I also use whether an animal will eat as a sure sign they are feeling better.

It was quite the learning experience. I will face many challenges as vet and these some of the most common are client happiness and compliance. I am glad I recognize the situation as a learning experience and I will be reflecting on how I as a new vet can balance these issues to provide the best care for the animal in the most responsibly way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Very, very scared

I am still in the trenches, but I believe tomorrow's surgery final to be the hardest exam ever. It is over 25% cumulative and almost 50% short answer. Usually the cumulative portions of the exams are ~10% and all multiple choice. There is so much information (30 lectures), I am praying I pass. I keep reminding myself that everyone is in the same boat, and I am doing all that I can. I have not had this panic type feeling since second year. I cannot stand this feeling of dread and fear, but the good news is I shouldn't feel this way again until national boards in 7 months.

Here is hoping I make it to 4th year and a better blog post is to follow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Into the Trenches

This may be the last post for a while (although I haven't been writing as much as I should be anyway). It's time for the weather to get nice and the exams to start flying at me. My 2 hardest finals are first starting this Thursday with a cumulative urology final and next Monday with a cumulative advanced small animal surgery final...yikes. In between I have some more 5 and 10k races to pursue, that will hopefully keep me sane.

This semester started flying by recently with only 18 more days left of 3rd year. I have only 4 more exams and paper standing between me and 4th year now. While these first 2 exams will be rough, I have found my favorite study location once again this weekend. I have faith that it and 7 more days of perseverance will get me through. As tough as this next week is, it really is not as tough as some other vet school weeks have been in the past. Is this because I have been through the trenches before, an finally after doing it so many times know there is a light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it that 3rd year just isn't as rough around the edges as second year?

Despite all of the hard work ahead and confusion of whether I am smart enough or remember enough to be a 4th year, I have been enjoying the beautiful weather with Matt and our dog. She has really turned a corner in terms of maturity and our bond is growing each day. She truly is amazing...when she listens.

I have quite the funny vet experience to share on my next entry. This time I was the paying customer and the vet did everything they tell us not to do in school, yet I understood why he did it.

Stay tuned and I'll return with the anecdote when I dig myself out of the trenches in just over a week.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

27 more days and other ramblings

When I think back to first year, it feels like a long long time ago, yet it went by very fast. I remember thinking, will I really wear a blue jacket and be a 4th year? It seemed impossible, and in fact the next few weeks will be tough, but I can almost count on 1 hand how many more exams I have to endure until I start clinics. That is crazy. I am excited and ready. I am not excited for giving up my free time, especially as I grow to love the New River Valley more each day, as I experience it with Spokane.

The past 2 weekends have been amazing. Last weekend I placed 3rd in my age group in a 5.25 mile trail race and had the time of my life running it. This weekend Matt, Spokane and I had a great day blazing new hiking trails and trying an amazing local restaurant. I am glad I have made every effort to make Blacksburg my home and to embrace it, as opposed to allowing vet school to gobble me whole.

Life has hit us with some stumbling blocks these past few years, but suddenly I feel as if things are changing in a positive way. Not that anything was ever horrible, but perhaps we are learning to make lemonade out of lemons. Simple to say, much harder to practice. Am I finally learning how to be patient and slowly work toward an important goal? I certainly hope I can continue learning how to adapt, I think it will benefit me for the next 12 months.

On another note, I am starting to feel as if vet school has changed me since I started only 2 and half years ago. I can't put my finger on how I have changed, but I definitely feel like I am growing and changing. I felt this way before when I changed between 21 and 23 and again between 25 and 26. It's a strange feeling that may be coming because a transition is just over a month away, but nonetheless recently something feels different than it did 2 and half years ago. When I can identify what that difference is I will be happy to share it.