Cornell Vet Students talk about their Externships in Shelter Medicine

Thanks to funding from the ASPCA, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell was able to award five Cornell Veterinary students with travel stipend grants to support their externships in Shelter Medicine in the past year. Each student received up to $500/week, for a maximum of two weeks, to assist with their travel and housing expenses, and enable these veterinary students to complete externships at animal shelters in the US. Continue reading below to find out about their experiences. To learn more about externship opportunities, please visit our website at www.sheltermedicine.vet.cornell.edu .

My externship at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV) was an incredible, rewarding, and informative experience. Through the mentorship and support of the staff, I gained an extensive amount of knowledge in a multitude of fields including shelter operations, behavior, spay/neuter and infectious disease. The two week experience was divided between spending time in the shelter and performing surgery. The first week primarily involved learning the shelter’ processes regarding intake of animals, care of animals within the shelter, and adoption. The second week focused on performing surgical procedures for shelter animals.

My externship at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV) was an incredible, rewarding, and informative experience. Through the mentorship and support of the staff, I gained an extensive amount of knowledge in a multitude of fields including shelter operations, behavior, spay/neuter and infectious disease. The two week experience was divided between spending time in the shelter and performing surgery. The first week primarily involved learning the shelter’s processes regarding intake of animals, care of animals within the shelter, and adoption. The second week focused on performing surgical procedures for shelter animals.

During the first week, I had the opportunity to learn about how the shelter handles their intake of animals- the process they go through from the moment they come in the door to when they are placed on the adoption floor. I helped perform physical exams on new kittens and watched temperment testing for dogs, and behavior evaluations on cats. One of my roles during the externship was to administer morning and evening medications to the animals under the care of the Humane Society. This gave me the opportunity to follow animals throughout their stay at the shelter. One of the best experiences I had during this part of the externship was spending time watching the behaviorists work withdifferent dogs, modifying their behavior to help them become more adoptable and successful in their new homes. Each animal was given a plan and worked with on a regular basis.

The second week, my time was focused on strengthening my surgical skills by performing multiple spays and neuters on cats and dogs. I performed these surgeries on my own without assistance, but always had someone willing and able to help if I had any questions. This really allowed me to gain confidence in my abilities. I also had the opportunity to assist the shelter medicine intern in performing a femoral head osteotomy.

Throughout my externship with HSBV I felt welcomed and supported. It was a very large and fast paced shelter that provided me a unique sheltering experience I had not encountered before. It was incredibly hands- on and I felt very involved even though I was only there for two weeks. This externship was invaluable and I am so glad I had this opportunity.     –Amanda Lacroix, CU CVM ’18

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My time at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley was an especially enjoyable and worthwhile experience. The veterinarians and staff at the shelter were a wonderful group to work with and were engaged in teaching and helping me grow. During the first week of the externship at Boulder Humane, I focused on shadowing within the various departments that encompassed their shelter. I spent time working with the behavior and training departments, observing intake exams, behavioral testing and training classes offered to the public. It was a great opportunity to see a large number of canine behavioral tests and gain a better insight of its importance within the shelter environment. I shadowed the adoption coordinators to observe how they interacted with potential adopters and worked to match them with the best animal. Boulder Humane has a private clinic within their shelter and I spent a large amount of time shadowing the veterinarians as they saw appointments with both private clients and recently adopted pets. It was a great opportunity to see how different clinicians approach difficult or sensitive cases.

The second week of my externship was largely focused on spay/neuter surgery. I took advantage of this opportunity by spaying larger dogs, including those that were older, post-partum, etc. This was especially beneficial as I had, to this point, much more experience with feline spay/neuters. I was given a large amount of support during these surgeries, but also the autonomy to perform them without supervision. This provided an environment in which I could gain confidence in my surgical abilities while also having support for questions or concerns I had along the way. Having the opportunity to perform more difficult surgeries was a valuable experience, as well.

Throughout my entire time at Boulder, I participated in patient physical exams, treatment plans and pathway decisions. The shelter has the capability to perform radiographs and ultrasounds and I was able to increase my competency using and interpreting both these modalities. I was given the ability to work directly with the veterinarians and make decisions on appropriate diagnostics and treatments for sick patients. They have a high surgical caseload within their shelter and allowed me to assist in a variety of surgeries, including aural hematomas, splenectomies, as well as a gastrotomy, enterotomy and cystotomy. This opportunity allowed me to increase my surgical competency and better prepare myself to perform these surgeries following graduation.

My time at Boulder Humane was truly an invaluable experience and one that I would recommend to anyone interested in gaining more experience in shelter medicine. Their high caseload and interest in teaching fostered an atmosphere that allowed me to grow as a soon-to-be veterinarian. I felt that this experience improved my competency as a clinician and surgeon, especially within a shelter. I am very happy I chose to spend two 

weeks at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley; it was the perfect environment for a budding shelter veterinarian to learn and grow.          – Tyler Junco, CU CVM ’18

 

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My externship at the ASPCA in New York City was a wonderful learning experience for me. I was delighted to find that the staff doctors, intern doctors, technicians, assistants and even security and administrative staff were incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic about having students around. All of the veterinarians and technicians willingly answered my questions about cases, guided me through differentials, allowed me to observe triages and other appointments, encouraged me to assist with examining patients and watch surgeries. My experience was comprehensive because I had the opportunity to rotate through many departments in the hospital, including dentistry, treatment, the high quality high volume spay neuter services through adoptions, and emergency.

I got to see a variety of interesting clinical cases that I have never seen before. A young cat was euthanized at the hospital due to presumptive FIP, and post-mortem one of the doctors took an abdominal fluid sample. She asked that I perform cytology and when I did, we confirmed our presumptive diagnosis. I have attached the image of what I found through the microscope: neutrophils and lots of fibrin. I observed a RNA surgery on a cat that had a presumptive tinsel foreign body, and watched the doctors expertly remove the embedded strings of tinsel from the gut. This was especially interesting for me to see, because I never had seen a linear foreign body removal before, and I saw the techniques we learned about in lecture applied in the real world!

I also saw a lot of patients with fractures, either from anticipated trauma that we learn about in school such as hit by cars and high rise syndrome, but also I got to see some abuse cases and learn about the process that is involved with pursuing legal actions against the owners. Animal abuse is something that we do not learn enough about in school, and probably most veterinarians see cases of it without realizing. I am glad that I had the opportunity to learn about these issues now, which will prepare me for my career.

I really admired how understanding, personable and generous the doctors were with clients. Before coming to Cornell Vet and experiencing programs like Southside, I had only seen doctors blame patients with no money for their pets’ problems. Here, they were willing to help any animal in need and cared about their impact on the clients, too. I would like to have the same rapport with my clients when I am practicing.

I learned a great deal from the intern doctors about what internships are like and the application process, which is also something we don’t learn about in the official curriculum. Everyone who works there loves their job! I can only imagine that this is due to the ASPCA’s supportive environment, and mission of community service that I got a small taste of when I was there. I became particularly close with one intern doctor, Dr. Cohen, who I have attached a picture with from the holiday party. I hope to apply for this internship program next year because the ASPCA’s values and interests align with my own, and because I really loved the work environment. Even if that doesn’t work out, I hope to keep in touch with the doctors I met.

Because of this grant, I had the opportunity to pursue an educational, and extremely fun externship experience.This externship has inspired me to continue pursuing a career in shelter medicine, potentially from the internship at the ASPCA right after graduation and beyond!  – Sarah Balik, CU CVM ’19

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