When we were planning our clinical year, there were way more rotations I wanted to take than I could fit into 24 blocks. Therefore, when I was looking for a small animal externship, I spent time searching for a way to make the experience fulfill multiple interests at once. Through my membership in the Society for Theriogenology, I have access to a list of practices that are willing to take on veterinary externs and which can be sorted based on species interest. I filtered my search results for practices with a focus on canine theriogenology which also saw exotic animal patients (for non-reproductive appointments). Voila! I discovered Suffield Veterinary Hospital in Suffield, Connecticut.
The people at Suffield Vet are the best! The techs gave me the opportunity to jump in and assist with blood draws, cystocenteses, inducing anesthesia, etc and the doctors included me in their cases, even to the extent that I sometimes got to be the “primary doctor” and work up the case on my own first. I got lots of canine theriogenology experience, which was great! I will be taking over a portion of the reproductive medicine service at the clinic at which I’ve accepted a job, so to be able to spend two weeks working in this capacity was incredible. I cannot rave enough about Dr. Ann Huntington, the practice owner and the veterinarian who does their reproductive work. From the very beginning of my contact with her via email, she was warm and welcoming. She invited me to stay with her in her home, which made all the difference in the experience. In the evenings we sat in the TV room with her dogs and she shared her advice about working as a veterinarian, owning a practice, being involved with your community, etc. She is a wonderful and inspiring person and I feel incredibly lucky to have met her.
The externship was basically all fun and games until one day when one of the veterinarians requested that I go take a look at some abdominal radiographs. After a few minutes, I concluded that I didn’t see anything abnormal and reported such to the veterinarian, assuming that she would correct me and point out the glaringly obvious problem I missed (which is what happens daily at school). She didn’t. I realized suddenly from her response that she wasn’t testing me, she had asked because she valued my opinion. I was shocked. And then I was shocked that I was shocked. Obviously I know, conceptually, that I will be a veterinarian very soon, but the realization that this veterinarian saw me as a veterinarian caught me completely off guard. Funny the things that make something real.
I chose the word ‘thrilling’ for the title of this post after some debate. Some people may chose ‘terrifying’, and others may choose ‘exciting’ as their descriptors of choice, but those don’t quite ring true for me. I chose thrilling because it feels like jumping off a high dive: the exquisite junction of emotion where part of me wants to turn back but part of me wants to jump. Once I jump, I feel the thrill of falling through the air, I feel myself crash against the water, I kick my way back to the surface, gasping for air, and I’m left with the undeniable sensation that it was the right decision to jump after all.
This post is part of a series documenting my clinical year in veterinary school. To read more from the series, please visit the Clinic Series homepage.