A new program in Florida is helping bridge the gap between training and practical experience for veterinary students, noting that fewer horses are being brought to university settings for treatment.
Started by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine , the two-week clerkship allows students to work at private veterinary practices throughout Florida. Since the program began in January 2010, students have tended to more than 4400 cases.
“It has been inspiring to hear all of the enthusiasm from students — who are enrolling in increasing numbers — and from practitioners, many of whom tell me they can’t wait for the next round of students,” said course director Amanda House, DVM, a clinical assistant professor and director of equine research programs at UF.
“We are so grateful for such a wonderful group of veterinarians who are willing to provide student instruction.”
Three Oaks Equine Reproductive Facility in Zolfo Springs, Florida, is one of 47 participating community practices. There, students get the chance to perform procedures of varying difficulty, from the relatively simple passing of a feeding tube from the nose to the stomach, to the more complicated injecting of drugs into a joint.
“One of the most common comments I hear from the students is that they are so thankful for the opportunity to put their hands on many horses in a short period of time,” said Three Oaks President Liz Yelvington Steele, DVM.
“I feel honored to be a part of helping them gain confidence in this area.”
Students have gotten to review X-ray charts, collect test samples from animals’ windpipes, guide horses to the ground during anesthesia administration and carry out health examinations before animals are purchased.
Luis Castro, DVM, a 1988 UF veterinary college graduate who works with Tiegland, Franklin and Brokken in Wellington, Florida, said the clerkship provides a way to expose veterinary students not just to real-life medicine, but also to the business of veterinary medicine, while also giving veterinarians the opportunity to mentor students.
“Teaching is something I’ve always enjoyed,” Castro said. “To be able to combine that with exposing students to a profession and an industry that I still love and find incredibly exciting — well, that was an irresistible combination.”
Castro’s student Stacey West, DVM, who graduated in 2012, got the chance to work with this year’s Belmont Stakes winner, Union Rags, and meet world-renowned trainer Michael Matz.
“I absolutely loved the clerkship,” West said. “I’m not an equine-oriented student, but it was such an unbelievable experience to see what goes on in the racing industry. Dr Castro knew I didn’t plan to pursue equine veterinary medicine, but he embraced that and made my time at his practice extremely enjoyable.”
West’s classmate, Alisa Corser, DVM, spent two weeks working alongside Jordan Lewis, DVM, an associate at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, a Wellington, Florida, practice that offers both walk-in and hospital care. During the festival Corser got to work with and around Olympic-caliber horses, including a previous Kentucky Derby winner and a current Canadian Olympic team member, while the practice served as on-site veterinarians for the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. She also got to observe Olympics show jumping trials.
“Dr Lewis included me in every aspect of each case, from the initial physical exam to advanced diagnostics and treatment,” Corser said.
“The days were long, but the knowledge and experience I gained during that time was invaluable.”