Set to begin one of the most exciting summers of my life

Externship Project

It’s hard to believe that I am saying this but here I am in the summer of 2016, starting my 4th year of veterinary school at the Ontario Veterinary College. Four years ago, if you had told me that I would be where I am today, I never would have believed you. Becoming a veterinarian has been my dream for as long as I can remember, and it still feels unreal that I am about to begin one of the most exciting summers of my life.

For those of you who have never met me, my name is Rachael Needles and I am one of the fourth year students who will be blogging for the Externship Project this summer. I am in the Equine stream and I plan to specialize in equine neonatology, which is hospital care for critically ill foals. I currently live in Guelph, Ontario with my boyfriend Deven, our Doberman/German Shepherd Lexi, our Maine Coon cat Sake, our horse Basil, a mouse named Parkour and 3 fish. Deven is studying to be a Mechanical Engineer, and he just started another semester of classes, since his school runs all year round. He will be staying in Guelph this summer while I am away for school and is in charge of looking after our little zoo!

I grew up on a farm outside of London, Ontario filled with donkeys, horses, ducks, dogs, cats and every wild animal that I brought home to nurse back to health. I have two sisters, one older and one younger. My older sister Sarah lives in British Columbia studying writing at Simon Fraser University. My younger sister Emily lives in Waterloo and is studying Biomed and International Development. This summer she is writing her MCAT in preparation to apply to medical school! My mother is a doctor as well, she works as a developmental pediatrician in London, and my dad teaches English and Drama at a local high school.

My family has always been very passionate about travelling and having adventures, so I have had the privilege of visiting many countries while I was growing up. For three summers we lived in a small villa on the island of Crete while my dad taught a summer course in English. Every day my dad would leave for work and my sisters and I would pick a new spot on the map (usually a beach) to travel to and explore with my mom. During high school, I worked for four summers on a ranch in Alberta, providing guided horseback riding tours into the Rocky Mountains. There is something about riding for eight hours a day and working 16 hour days through rain, sleet, hail, snow and whatever else the mountains can throw at you that changes you. Although I came back from Alberta to pursue my dreams of becoming a veterinarian, I have always planned to move back as soon as I am done. The Rocky Mountains, Prairies and wide-open skies of Alberta have a way of sneaking into your heart and they have certainly never let mine go. Luckily, I have managed to find someone who shares my love of adventure, and after we drove across Canada, I think I have convinced Deven that Alberta is the perfect place for us to live once we graduate…

My love of travelling and adventure is part of why I chose my externship at Scott Veterinary Services on Manitoulin Island. I had originally been planning to do my externship at the same clinic that I had done my undergrad volunteering at, but after reading one of the externship blogs last year, I ended up changing my mind. The student wrote about how he too had planned to complete his externship at a clinic that he knew very well but at the last minute he changed his mind and went to Northern Ontario. He said that it was one of the best decisions he had ever made, and that he really benefited from being the only student at a busy practice in a remote area. After reading this blog, I changed my mind and started to think about where in Ontario I would most like to spend my summer. I decided on Manitoulin Island very quickly and ended up at Scott Veterinary Services through the recommendation of a friend. It will be a bit scary to be on my own so far from home, but I keep reminding myself how nervous I was leaving home to live on the ranch and how many fantastic experiences I ended up having during my time there.  I made the long journey up to the Island this week to meet the family that I will be staying with and to visit the clinic. The couple that I am staying with runs the local radio station, County 103, which is a nice surprise because I am a huge fan of country music and bluegrass!

Before I start my externship in July, I will be travelling to three different clinics to complete some external rotations. External rotations are one or two week placements at a clinic or hospital where we shadow the vets and get hands on experience. We get evaluated and receive a grade/credit, just like our other courses in vet school except this time we get to be out in the real world! My first rotation is at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I will be in charge of looking after the sick foals and calves that come through the hospital and I am very excited to be starting in such an amazing facility. From there I will be flying to Calgary, Alberta where I will be completing my second rotation at an equine clinic that offers many different services including surgery, lameness diagnostics and breeding. For my third and final rotation before my externship, I will bet travelling to Edmonton, Alberta where I will be staying at another equine clinic. After all of this I will have one week at home with Deven and then be off to the Island to start my externship!

I am really excited to be blogging my adventures this summer for OVC and I hope that you will enjoy reading them! I leave you with a picture of one of my aunt and uncle’s lambs (above). Deven and I were visiting them last weekend and got the chance to help birth some of them, they are adorable and fuzzy and the perfect way to start a summer of animals, adventure and learning! 


Deven with Basil and Lexi.