Variety is the spice of life

Externship Project

Join three Ontario Veterinary College student veterinarians for the OVC Externship Blog Project as they share their experiences from the fall of 2020 completing externships in Ontario veterinary practices. 

Like almost everything else in 2020, OVC student externships look quite a bit different this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic delaying our final year of vet school by over three months, the anticipation for finally beginning my four-week placement at Mildmay Veterinary Clinic had plenty of time to build up. Fortunately, I had spent the two and a half months prior as an employee at this amazing mixed-animal clinic, and so I was able to jump right into things by the time mid-August rolled around.

Mildmay Veterinary Clinic (MVC) is a large (eight-doctor) mixed animal practice located in Mildmay, ON. Although this year’s ‘mixed practice’ requirement for externships has been waived due to the circumstances, as a Rural Community Practice (mixed) student, I am still expected to obtain mixed animal experience. Because MVC is located in an agriculturally active area, I was fortunate to get exposure with equines, bovines, small ruminants (goats and sheep), and even a pig, along with cats and dogs.

Mildmay Veterinary Clinic in Mildmay, Ontario

Even as a young girl, I admired and aspired to be a modern-day version of James Herriot. For those of you who may not know, James Herriot was the pen name of a famous veterinarian who authored several hilarious and heartwarming books about his decades as a vet starting in the 1940’s. He treated ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, as one of his books was titled, and although mixed animal medicine may be a fading art, it is still something myself and a small number of my peers remain passionate about as we pursue our DVMs. I always joke with people that “if it isn’t human, I want to treat it,” but it’s the honest truth!

Thankfully, my interest in broad exposure was satisfied starting on day one of my externship, when I saw cats with skin and endocrine (hormone) issues, a horse with a swollen leg, dogs with bad ear infections, and even a cow with a condition called ‘lumpy jaw’. As a student, my role in these cases was varied, but they all served as excellent learning opportunities. Each new case brought with it a unique set of restraint techniques for working with the particular animal, potential causes, risk factors, pharmacological safety considerations, as well as  client involvement and emotional attachment; reminding me that, importantly, there is no such thing as a ‘comfort zone’ in mixed animal medicine!